STOBART Group has been revealed as the operator of Durham Tees Valley Airport following a Mayor's decision to return it to public ownership.

In January this year, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen’s plan to acquire the airport was approved at a cabinet meeting of the Tees Valley Combined Authority – fulfilling the election pledge he made to the people of the Tees Valley.

The deal has seen Peel Group’s 89 per cent shareholding in the airport and 819 acres of surrounding land transferred to the Mayor and Combined Authority.

Mr Houchen also confirmed this morning that the planning application for 350 homes outside the airport terminal had been “withdrawn” and said that “there will be no residential development on this airport site” for as long as he is Mayor.

Today’s announcement means that Stobart Group will be responsible for the oversight and strategic development of the airport, and to implement a 10-year rescue plan to increase passenger numbers to 1.4 million, secure a low cost carrier by 2022, and drive the creation of 7,600 jobs.

Stobart has run London Southend Airport since 2008, which has passenger numbers increase from 5,000 in 2009 to 1.5million in 2019.

The Northern Echo:

NEW DEAL: Ben Houchen making the annoucement this morning Picture: JULIA BREEN

Last June, the company signed a $300m deal with Ryanair, providing 13 routes to eight European countries from London Southend.

According to official figures, it is one of the fastest expanding airports in the UK.

The Group also owns Carlisle Lake District Airport which will re-open its doors in summer 2019 for the first time in 25 years.

From July, Scotland’s airline Loganair will offer direct flights from Carlisle to Dublin, Belfast and London Southend.

The Northern Echo:

AIRPORT PLANS: Mayor Ben Houchen talks at emergency cabinet meeting on future ofDurham Tees Valley Airport Pictures: SARAH CALDECOTT

At a joint press conference hosted at Durham Tees Valley Airport, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "We have been in discussions with Stobart for quite some time and have worked together on our 10-year rescue plan that will help us see the airport become the success we know it can be.

"Stobart is a huge company with significant experience, knowledge and expertise in the aviation sector. They’re no stranger to turning around airports – just look at what they have achieved at London Southend and Carlisle Lake District Airport.

"Stobart will hold a minority share in our airport with a clear and overwhelming incentive to turn it around. They have the experience, credibility and relationships with airlines to make Teesside fly again and they’re the right partner for Teesside.

The Northern Echo:

LOOKING ON: Members of the public cheered when the plans were passed

“This airport has been run into the ground and was just months away from closure, but we will bring it back from the brink and turn it around. This isn’t a quick fix and it will take time - but we’re ready for the challenge ahead.

"Today, we’ve bought our airport, but tomorrow we get to work on our 10 year plan. Now the People’s Airport is safe in our hands, we have the plan and we have the right partner on board to make it happen. Teesside is taking off."

Glyn Jones, chief executive of Stobart Aviation, said, “We understand and recognise the important role that Durham Tees Valley Airport plays in the economic development of the area and are proud to be part of the ambitious scheme put forward by the Tees Valley Mayor.

“Stobart Aviation has built up 10 years’ valuable experience and expertise from successfully operating London Southend Airport, taking it from under 5,000 passengers in 2009 to 1.5 million in 2018. We look forward to bringing that experience and expertise to Durham Tees Valley Airport.”