A PRIVATE operator which held a stake in Teesside Airport has handed it back two years after it first agreed to help run it.

It is understood that Esken, formerly known as Stobart Group, has handed back control as it focuses on other aspects of its business such as London Southend airport.

The 25 percent stake will be transferred into a foundation established by the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which the Tees Valley Mayor said will help "safeguard" its future.

In a statement issued to the London Stock Exchange, Esken said that "give these positive developments, Teesside Airport no longer requires" its support.

It comes as the Stobart Group was brought in back in March 2019 to help transform the airport as it was brought back into public ownership from former owner, Peel.

The Northern Echo:

At the time, Stobart was responsible for the oversight and strategic development of the airport, and to implement the 10-year rescue plan.

David Shearer, Executive Chairman at Esken, said, “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to play a role in supporting Teesside International Airport’s return to public ownership and help it on the start of a journey that is now underway with a multimillion-pound overhaul of the terminal.”

The newly-established, Teesside Airport Foundation will hold the 25 percent stake - meaning the airport is 100 percent locally controlled.

This will then consist of an independent board of trustees, with applications for those interested opening today.

Funds will initially be set aside to support the trust, with this increasing as the airport hopes to move into profit as part of its rescue plan.

The Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said that the foundation would help people from across Teesside get back into work and education, once the airport returns to profit.

As a result of the changes, a requirement for a referendum held across the Tees Valley will need to be held if the airport ever goes up for sale has been announced today.

He said: “Establishing the Airport Foundation goes even further in making our airport give back to the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

"When in profit it will provide support to local people, helping them get into work or education or back projects that will transform our area.

"It will be made up of local champions with a strong desire to see our airport and the Tees Valley succeed and, to make it free from political bias, we have put in place rules so politicians like me aren’t allowed near it."

Addressing the conclusion of Esken's involvement, he said: “Stobart Group, now Esken, played a key role in supporting Teesside Airport with the transition back into public ownership.

"Their hard work has been an important part of getting us to this point. As we enter a new phase in the airport’s transformation and development, I’d like to thank them for the role they have played helping us get ahead of schedule in delivering our 10-year plan for our airport."

Brian Robinson, Chairman of Friends of Teesside International Airport, said: “This is a huge step forward for Teesside International, involving local people in its operations and future and, with this new Foundation, giving them control over how it can benefit local communities like never before.

“I know first-hand the huge difference these organisations can make in people’s lives, as I work very closely with Boro’s MFC Foundation.

"I also know the huge enthusiasm people here have for the airport and both the news of the trust and its total local ownership shows how far it has come in just a few short months, against a background of huge challenges.”


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