TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen says taxpayers are being 'held to ransom' over the rights to the name of Teesside Airport.

The move to change Durham Tees Valley's name to Teesside International Airport could take at least eighteen months and a lengthy legal battle after an advertising company demanded £250,000 of taxpayer's money to sell the trademark.

A company called Hook Advertising Limited, owned by businessman Chris Joseph, registered the trademark for Teesside Airport, plus some domain names, several years ago and is now asking the Tees Valley Combined Authority to pay £250,000 for the rights to the name.

He claimed Mr Joseph's company had asked for £250,000 and threatened that the amount would double every six months unless it is paid – something Mr Joseph strenuously denies.

Mr Houchen said: "One way or another, we will change our airport's name back to Teesside Airport.

"In December last year, more than 15,000 people voted in an online poll to decide whether to change our airport's name back to Teesside International.

"As I said at the time, if the people are going to own our airport, then the people should decide what it should be called.

"An overwhelming majority asked me to change the airport's name and I will.

"People have asked why we didn't opt for simply 'Teesside Airport'. That's because the rights are owned by a gentleman who lives in Stockton called Christopher Joseph.

"Since, September 2017, he has tried to sell the rights to 'Teesside Airport' for an extortionate fee of £250,000.

"I will never, ever agree to Mr Joseph's preposterous terms.

"My one and only priority is to make our airport a success by giving it a brand that is known world-over."

Mr Houchen said he had lodged an application to the Intellectual Property Office to register Teesside International Airport as a trademark. But he said he believed Mr Joseph would contest the application on the basis it sounded similar to Hook's trademark, so he was formally prepared to contest his right legally on the grounds that he had 'no genuine intention' regarding the trademark other than to sell it for profit.

Mr Joseph said the trademark was registered back in 2015, before Mr Houchen made his election pledge to buy the airport: "We are an advertising and trademarks company and that's what we do," he said. "I am a businessman. The trademark is worth money. It is an airport, it isn't Rosie's Tanning Shop."