The Mayor of Stockton has joined calls for an inquiry into the “staggering decline” of Durham Tees Valley Airport ahead of campaigners meeting Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton to discuss the issue this week.
Cllr Ian Dalgarno has joined the campaign raising alarms bells about a decline that has seen passenger numbers using the airport fall from a high of 918,000 in 2006 to just 142,000 in 2014.
Cllr Dalgarno will join campaigners Andy Preston and Anth Ayre at a meeting with the Northern Powerhouse minister this Friday.
Both businessman and charity leader Mr Preston and Stockton resident Mr Ayre have recently launched petitions calling on the government to look into the airport’s year-on-year decline.
Now they have joined forces with Cllr Dalgarno as pressure mounts on senior politicians to look into the issue.
Cllr Dalgarno said: “I’m proud to be supporting this campaign because, like many people, I’m concerned about the airport’s downward spiral.
“The airport is a vital community asset to the Tees Valley and should not be allowed to be broken up and disposed of for profit, as I fear will be the case.
“I hope more of my fellow councillors across all the local authorities join me in speaking up about this crucial issue.”
Mr Ayre added: “We’re pleased to be meeting Mr Wharton. I hope we’ll come out of the meeting with everyone determined to see a strong and viable airport for the people of Teesside.
“It’s important that we cut through the secrecy of what happened when the five local councils sold our airport for peanuts, because that holds the key as to what we might be able to do to turn it around.
“As a government minister with a specific mandate for transport and connectivity, and whose constituency borders the airport, Mr Wharton is clearly in a position to get involved and help sort this mess out.”
Mr Preston said: “Those in power have not displayed any interest whatsoever in the staggering decline of what most people continue to call Teesside Airport.
“This decline – which represents 776,000 fewer passengers per year – has been bad for our local economy, our morale and our identity. It needs sorting now.
“The airport has lost 85% of its passengers in just eight years – with Newcastle and Leeds picking up that business and boosting their economies.
“Any fool can see what’s coming.”
Despite recent suggestions from the airport’s owners, Peel Holdings, that passenger figures for its KLM flights to Schiphol were up by 7% in September compared to the same month last year, Mr Preston highlighted the “staggering decline” in overall passengers using the airport over a period of just eight years.
In 2006, 917,963 passengers used the airport – many of them flying out for their annual holidays in Spain, Majorca and Tenerife.
By 2009, passenger numbers had dipped below 300,000 and have continued to decline every year since then, to their 2014 figures of 142,379.