The Conservative Party’s Tees Valley Mayoral candidate’s plans to nationalise the region’s airport if elected appear to have been grounded – by his own party.
Ben Houchen, the Tory candidate for the Tees Valley Mayor election on May 4, issued a statement recently, saying he would buy back Durham Tees Valley Airport using public money if elected.
But days later, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the government has no plans to nationalise local airports.
Houchen revealed he would use part of the new public money at his disposal, if elected, to conduct a “deal” with the airport owner, Peel Investments (DTVA) Ltd.
“For too long Teesside airport has been allowed to decline,” said Mr Houchen.
“It has been decimated by the local Labour run authorities for years and local people have had less influence.
“The result has been a struggle for flights compounded by policies such as drop-off fees and passenger fees that actively discourage airport users.
“The new devolution deal gives a large annual cash sum to the Mayor, which can also be used for additional borrowing.
“There are many calls on these resources but a rejuvenated airport needs to be one of the top transport priorities.”
James Wharton, the MP for Stockton South (pictured below with the Tory candidate), supported Mr Houchen’s announcement, saying: “This is a long running issue and it is welcome that at least one of the candidates for Mayor is looking to address it.
“I would expect this proposal to be of real interest and it may well be the long-term solution we have been looking for.”
Days after Mr Houchen’s statement, Labour MP Phil Wilson – whose Sedgefield constituency takes in Durham Tees Valley Airport – asked the Transport Secretary during a House of Commons debate what plans the government has for nationalising regional airports.
Mr Grayling replied: “We have no plans to nationalise regional airports.
“In some cases, local authorities – or, indeed, local authorities in partnership with the private sector – control regional airports, and that is a matter for those local authorities and the current and past owners of those airports. We have no plans to nationalise airports.”