A LOSS-MAKING airport was given a much-needed lifeline yesterday after an "historic" decision to bring it into public ownership was agreed.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said it was a "truly great moment" for the region as the leaders of Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland councils gave the green light to his plans, and key election pledge, to buy Durham Tees Valley Airport.

The Northern Echo:

More than one hundred business leaders and members of the public packed into The Jurys Inn hotel in Middlesbrough to call on the cabinet of the Tees Valley Combined Authority to back the plan, which they did unanimously – a decision which resulted in wild cheers and applause.

Mr Houchen said the decision marked "the dawn of a new era" for the region and would "determine the future of Teesside for decades to come".

As well as the plans for the airport, the approval of the Tees Valley Investment Plan means the Combined Authority will be able to develop land on the site of the South Tees Development Corporation, and begin work on a number of investment projects across the region.

These include £75.5m from the Government to deliver transport schemes across the region, more than £3m to help unlock growth sites for enterprise in Darlington, £25m and £20m for Darlington and Middlesbrough Railway Stations respectively and £2m of development funding for the new Tees crossings and Darlington Northern Link Road.

The Northern Echo:

Cllr Sue Jeffrey, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, defended herself during the meeting after receiving a backlash from audience members over her "negative" attitude to the plans.

She said: "If I was not asking questions and scrutinising the plans, I will not be doing my job as an elected leader.

"It is the single biggest investment in the single biggest project in the Tees Valley - that needs scrutinising.

"What I care about first and foremost is the people of Redcar and Cleveland the people of the Tees Valley.

"For the first time we are investing money on the SSI site and purchasing the land, which means we can create jobs. We haven't done that yet, but now we are."

As part of his plans for the airport, Mr Houchen will target low-cost carriers such as Easyjet and Flybe in a bid to secure 1.4m passengers and return the airport to profit.

And the Mayor said if fully developed, the airport could add £421m a year to the local economy and support the creation of 7,682 jobs by 2027.

He has also confirmed that plans for 350 homes will be stopped, the hated £6 passenger tax will be scrapped, the airport name would change back to Teesside International, and hundreds of acres would be developed as commercial space.

Darlington Borough Council leader Stephen Harker said: "We have to go into it and accept there are risks, but it could very successful.

"Hopefully we can say in 10 years’ time the airport is a success, but we need to monitor what goes on and there may be things that happen which are out of our control, including national and international economies."

A spokesperson for the airport's current owners Peel said: "We welcome the decision of the Tees Valley local authority leaders to support the proposal by the elected Mayor to create a business plan designed to develop the economic benefits of the regional economy and its communities, by securing the future of Durham Tees Valley Airport.

"We have been working hard with the Mayor to ensure a smooth transition once the sale has been concluded. Following today’s decision, we will continue to assist in completing the process."