As a war of words rages over the future of the once-thriving Durham Tees Valley Airport, Teesside business leaders give their forthright views on whether the idea of building 350 homes on part of the loss-making site is a good idea.
Airport owners Peel Holdings have submitted development plans to Darlington Council, insisting a “significant ongoing investment” is vital, with plans to build the homes together with business and leisure facilities a crucial part of the deal.
But campaigners fighting to save Teesside’s airport have hit out, insisting that the airport will be condemned to never grow again once housing is built there.
Here’s the views of this week’s Tees Business panel:
Anthony McCarthy, director, Macks Solictors
“My view is that if Tees Valley as a region is going to be a success it needs to have a thriving airport – it’s laughable to talk about regeneration and then close down the airport that serves that region.
“Yes it can be successful but we need to get to the bottom of ownership and vested interests and why the airport has been allowed to fail, then take it from there.
“As soon as any homes are built the airport is dead in the water – who buys a house next to an airport that is going to expand? Once homes are allowed the eventual closure of the airport is a done deal.”
Bryan Bunn, managing director, Nortech Solutions
“As a region, the Tees Valley needs an integrated connectivity that will support our future development on a regional, national and international stage. We’ve been a well kept secret for far too long.
“Everyone should recognise the opportunities that are in front of us and support the development and expansion of our local airport to become a real life style hub for business, leisure and residential developments.
“From a business perspective, having a vibrant local airport that gives us great gateway access to the global markets we need as a region to evolve is vitally important and something that every single Teessider should support, regardless of political standing. So, in simple terms, I’m in full support of anything that can benefit us all here in Teesside.”
Matt Ord, director of business development, KMS Partners
“It’s vital that Teesside has a viable airport, for both business and leisure. Inward investment opportunities have already been scuppered in recent years with us not having a viable airport, so traveling professionals don’t consider Teesside to be an option when flying.
“I believe Peel will have their plans for the airport and nothing will change this. That said, I have to credit Peel – this is a brilliant bit of business. They got it for a song. I blame the councils, who should not have sold such an asset without understanding the plans Peel had. It’s a simple lack of business acumen from all involved.
“Whether Peel’s plans to build homes and business facilities on part of the airport is a good idea really depends on the bigger picture. If the plans are to demolish the airport then what else can we expect? If the idea is that Peel listen to public ideas, I’d suggest this is not such a pill to swallow. I think we have to face facts and do the best with whatever is left.”
Jennie McNamara, director, Northern Guild
“In terms of building homes on part of the site, in my opinion any reasonable action that supports local people and business is a good idea. Investment into the local area is an important part of this. The plans are creative with a diverse range of facilities. What’s not to like?
“People are free to choose whether or not to live near the airport. Other major airports are located near residential areas and, overall, that tends to be a positive thing for the local population.”
Jonathan Willett, director, Henderson Insurance Brokers Teesside
“It is of great importance to Teesside that we have an airport. Obviously, it would be nice for it to be fully-functional, but that all depends on the demand for its services. However, I still feel there is a need, particularly in the business community, for Durham Tees Valley Airport.
“The development plans are welcome news for the regional economy and show a great deal of confidence in Teesside and the North East, despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Signs of positivity and reassurances are required at this time and hopefully this will lead to continued commercial investments on Teesside and in the UK, as a whole.”
Darren Sutherland, chief executive officer, Utility Alliance
“A vibrant airport is vital to this area. We have all heard about the Northern Powerhouse, and if the Tees Valley as a whole is going to be a big player in that then we need the airport.
“Currently it is only used for flights to Aberdeen, Amsterdam and Norway to service the oil and gas industry. But from our point of view if we were able to use our local airport for a daily flight to London, rather than having to commute to Leeds or Newcastle that would be a big benefit.
“As far as the house building goes, in my view we have plenty of other spaces where they could be built. I know I wouldn’t like to buy a house near an airport and I can’t see many others wanting to so it would suggest it is the start of the end of the airport.”
Mohammed Bashir, owner, Boro Taxis
“I would like to see more flights, but with Newcastle Airport just down the road I don’t think it will happen.
“The airport’s greatest asset is its land. A business park there could provide an alternative revenue stream, and secures the future of existing flights, and provide a welcome boost to the airport’s finances.”