Robert Hough now says Durham Tees Valley Airport faces an uncertain future – just 14 months after investing £250,000 in a new terminal and extending a “master plan” to create 3,800 new jobs.
In November 2017, Hough was joined by local authority leaders and the region’s media to celebrate a new ‘Flying for the Future’ rebrand.
The airport chairman then said Peel was committed to keeping it open for at least eight years, providing “certain financial criteria were met”.
The delivery of a Master Plan, originally launched in 2014, was phased to 2020 “and beyond”, and was aimed at creating 3,800 new jobs, plus a further 450 full-time jobs during its construction phases.
Bosses said the plan would add more than £348m GVA to the regional economy.
Hough and local Labour politicians said the business community had a vital part to play in the future of the airport.
But 14 months on, in what appears to be a swipe at local councils, Hough says Peel has been unable to make progress.
In a statement, he said: “Despite our best efforts single-handedly, we have been unable to make the progress that we would have liked at Durham Tees Valley Airport in recent years.
“These are clearly uncertain and challenging times for the future of the airport, but since the sale announcement we have been working steadfastly with the mayor to ensure a smooth transition should a deal be concluded.
“We recognise and welcome the efforts made by Tees Valley mayor to create a business plan designed to return the airport to growth collaboratively and to safeguard the economic benefits to the regional economy and its communities.
“Without that conclusion, the future operations of the airport are extremely uncertain after 2021.”
A ‘Keep Open Commitment’ up until 2021 was agreed between Peel Group and the local authority shareholders in Durham Tees Valley Airport in 2016.
It was agreed as part of a package of measures to secure the airport’s future, which included a decision that Tees councils would take on the pension liabilities of airport workers from Peel.
The Tees Valley Combined Authority cabinet, chaired by the mayor, is also made up of the Labour leaders of the five Tees Valley local authorities – Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool, Darlington and Stockton.
The full business case will be published on Wednesday January 16, and the TVCA cabinet is due to meet on Thursday January 24 to decide on what Ben Houchen has described a “make or break” vote.