Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry MP says a thriving airport is key to driving business growth.
And he’s urging the region’s Labour leaders to back Tees mayor Ben Houchen’s plan to buy Durham Tees Valley Airport.
The Tory Minister was on Teesside this week as the government confirmed a £14m pot of funding for the South Tees Development Corporation site – just as a deal with Tata was struck for 1,420 acres of developable land.
The Labour leaders of the five local authorities sitting on the Tees Valley Combined Authority – from Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool and Darlington councils – have had Houchen’s plan since before Christmas and will vote on it during a crunch cabinet meeting on January 24.
And Berry, the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire who was appointed Northern Powerhouse Minister in 2017, says the airport could “drive economic activity” for the Tees region.
He told Tees Business: “What I’d say to the local authority leaders is that it’s right that it is locally determined – it is, of course, their decision – but if they look across the North of England and look at our most successful airports, it’s about driving business growth.
“Manchester Airport is a partnership, it’s owned by the authorities of Greater Manchester and has an operator in place. Newcastle Airport has a significant local authority ownership.
“Those airports have demonstrated that having a regional airport attached to wider economic growth can be key in driving economic activity.
“So what I’d say to them, while they’re weighing up the pros and cons of the mayor’s proposal, that they look at that wider Northern Powerhouse context and think whether this could be the right solution for the Tees.
“Growing regional airport capacity is part of economic growth across the North of England.
“Carlisle Airport is opening and hopefully this year will have international flights, Manchester Airport goes from strength-to-strength, Leeds Bradford is continuing strong growth as is Newcastle.
“It does seem there’s a missing piece in that jigsaw which, to me, says we should have an airport in the Tees which is part of that wider regional airport capacity.”