TEESSIDE Airport made a £2.6m net loss in the last 12 months, it can be revealed.

The financial performance of the airport, which was taken back into public hands by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen last year, is said to be in line with a previously published ten year turnaround plan.

Mr Houchen told a meeting of the Tees Valley Combined Authority’s cabinet that the airport was “two years ahead of schedule”.

But councillor Norma Stephenson, who is chairwoman of the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) “nobody likes to see anything make a loss”, even if expected. 

She also said she had concerns about transparency surrounding the financial position of the airport and other arrangements.

Cllr Stephenson said: “Nobody wants to see the airport fail – it was bought with public money – but we need to keep a good eye on it to make sure we are not losing money that we don’t need to lose.”

She added: “I still have concerns about the information we are getting and I have arranged an informal meeting with an officer from the authority about how we get information in the future.

“With the overview and scrutiny committee we get information after decisions have been made and don’t get a chance to scrutinise until afterwards.

“Then you are on a tight timetable if you want to call anything in.

“This is public money that is being used and the public should have a right to know what their money is being used for.”

An executive summary of a business plan update for the airport said that aeronautical revenue and passenger numbers in 2019/20 had exceeded targets for the year.

It said this was largely driven by the launch of a domestic flights programme with Eastern Airways in January.

Prior to commercial flights being halted in March due to the coronavirus outbreak passenger numbers had been highly encouraging and were “exceeding expectations”, while numbers were also performing extremely strongly on the KLM service to Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

It said: “The 2019/20 actual net loss of £2.6m [subject to audit completion] is exactly in-line with the target as per the original business plan.”

The summary said the pandemic had inevitably resulted in additional short-term cash requirements in 2020/21, but based on the assumption that passenger numbers would return to pre-covid levels it was not anticipated that additional funding would be needed to support the airport’s return to self-sustainability.

The financial plan remained to achieve growth in revenues to £16.8m by March 2025 from both aeronautical and non-aeronautical income streams.

Mayor Houchen made taking back the airport one of his pre-election pledges.

Having been on the brink of closure under previous owners Peel, a near £40m deal was struck early last year by the combined authority to buy it after an investment plan was agreed by the five Tees Valley council leaders who make up the cabinet.

The airport, which is operated by the Stobart Group, is 89 per cent owned by Goosepool Limited, effectively a subsidiary of the combined authority, which has its own board.

The remaining 11 per cent is shared among the local councils in the region.

Earlier this week Mr Houchen described an agreement with low-cost carrier Ryanair to begin two services a week to Alicante and Mallorca from June next year as a “seismic day” for the airport.

He said: “Securing a low-cost airline was always the crucial part in our rescue plan for Teesside Airport and less than two years after agreeing a deal to buy back our airport we have made it happen. 

“This is a huge vote of confidence in Teesside despite us being in the middle of a global pandemic. 

“Our airport has withstood huge challenges before and it is doing so again, coming out the other side even stronger.

“2021 was billed as the year that the airport was closing, but instead it’s the year that it is being reborn. 

“Our finances are on track and we have made even more progress in two years than I could have dared to dream when we bought the airport. 

“Many people told me it couldn’t be done, but this is the biggest proof yet that we did the right thing and Teesside Airport has a great future.”

Other developments at the airport this year have included the re-introduction of a London Heathrow route, while the UK biggest holiday firm, TUI, has been announced as flying from Teesside in 2022 after a nine-year absence.

A £1m revamp of the security area at the airport has taken place and the arrivals hall refreshed and given a new look.

Work has also begun on the infrastructure to support the airport’s Southside development. 

The £200m logistics, manufacturing and commercial business park will cover 34m sq ft across 270 acres of the land at the airport’s southside. 

Once complete, it could create up to 4,400 jobs, delivering extra revenue of up to £3m per year over ten years, to reinvest in the airport. 

However the updated business plan does not base its financial forecasts on incorporating future potential revenue from the park.

The LDRS asked a spokesman for Mr Houchen why a summary of the updated plan was publicly available, but not the plan itself and was told this was because it was “commercially sensitive”.

The business plan for the airport will be refreshed each year before being presented to the combined authority cabinet for approval