Campaigners who met Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton are to call for the owners of Durham Tees Valley Airport to revert to its former name of Teesside Airport.
After holding what they described as an “open, honest and forthright” meeting with Mr Wharton, the Stockton South MP, campaigners to save the airport from its decline now aim to set up a meeting with its owners, Peel Holdings.
Nearly 9,000 people have signed petitions run by campaigners Anth Ayre and Andy Preston, with the mayor of Stockton, Cllr Ian Dalgarno, backing their calls for action on an airport that has suffered an 85% decline in passenger numbers over the last eight years.
After meeting Mr Wharton to discuss their concerns, the trio believe Peel should prove they understand the concerns of “the vast majority of local people” by agreeing to meet them.
Next on their agenda is to call on Peel to rename the site Teesside Airport, the name the current owners dropped for Durham Tees Valley Airport soon after obtaining the majority of shares from the five local councils in 2002.
Mr Ayre said: “Mr Wharton is wholly supportive with the aims of our campaign, which is to see a strong airport, to work with the owners – present or future – to increase available routes and boost the local economy via a viable, successful airport.
“He promised to support and help us wherever possible and we’ll be meeting him again in the future.
“Mr Wharton has previously led calls for Peel to revert to the airport’s name to Teesside, as opposed to the highly unpopular name of Durham Tees Valley Airport.
“We, too, believe that would be one small but positive step in the right direction so would call on Peel Holdings to actively consider this name change.”
Cllr Dalgarno added: “Mr Wharton gave us some useful advice on how to win more support for our campaign.
“This is only the start of our campaign but our meeting with the Northern Powerhouse minister has given us some new ideas and new energy.”
Mr Preston said it was important that the five local councils – Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland – also released details of the terms of the deal that saw them sell the airport to Peel “for peanuts” in 2004.
He added: “Apart from calling on the name change, we plan to put more pressure on the local authorities to release the documention, so that we can understand what terms and stipulations were included about the airport’s future use.
“Despite several Freedom of Information requests, the councils have so far refused to release any details about the terms of the sale, insisting that it was ‘commercially sensitive’.
“We not believe that is an acceptable response – and I don’t believe most people around Teesside and Darlington will feel it is acceptable either.
“The airport has been declining at a staggering rate for almost a decade now. We are not prepared to allow that to continue without a fight.”
In 2006, 917,963 passengers used the airport – many of them flying out for their annual holidays in such destinations as Spain, Majorca and Tenerife.
Passenger numbers dipped to just 142,379 in 2014, with Aberdeen and Schiphol the only regular destinations.
• Meanwhile, the petitions launched by Mr Ayre and Mr Preston, each calling for political powers to take action to halt the airport’s decline, have been merged, meaning they now have more than 8,500 signatures. The government must respond when the figure reaches 10,000. You can sign the merged petition by clicking here.