Newton Aycliffe’s MP Phil Wilson insists there are a number of “legitimate questions” that need to be asked before the public can get carried away by the buyout of Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA).
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen and Peel Airports announced on Tuesday that terms have been reached to bring the airport back into public ownership in a £40m deal, which must be rubber-stamped by council leaders in January.
But Sedgefield’s Labour MP Phil Wilson – who last year described mayor Houchen’s airport plans as “fanciful” – said that while welcoming “any deal” that would secure its future, he remained cautious.
Three-quarters of DTVA’s land sits within the constituency, of which he’s been the MP since succeeding Tony Blair in 2007.
“I welcome any proposal that secures the long-term future of Durham Tees Valley Airport,” Mr Wilson told Aycliffe Today.
“But there are legitimate questions that need to be answered before any realistic business plan can be approved.
“Who is going to be the operator? Will this be a case of the public sector taking the risk and the private sector taking the profit?
“How much more investment will be needed? Does the mayor have airlines that are prepared to fly out of Durham Tees Valley? Has independent due diligence taken place – we need to know about the viability of the scheme.
“I want to see the airport succeed but I feel these are perfectly reasonable questions we should ask when it involves tax payers’ money.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald says Houchen needs to stop “hiding behind” non-disclosure agreements and reveal his business plan for the stricken airport.
“The public have a right to know how their money is being spent,” added the Middlesbrough MP, who was appointed Shadow Transport Secretary by Jeremy Corbyn in June 2016.
“I am entirely supportive of our local airport and having met with Peel, the current owners at the airport, I was entirely in favour of their plan to develop additional flights and develop aviation related industries, including the many aviation sector jobs that were to be created.
“I am extremely disappointed that Ben Houchen, on taking up office as Tees Valley mayor, saw fit to block the proposed support of the airport that was agreed by the TVCA Labour Leaders to the tune of £600,000 to bring additional flights to Teesside.
“Had he not rejected that proposal, instead spending money on lawyers and reports to further his notion to buy the airport outright, we would have had those additional flights by now.
“What cannot be ignored here is that the airport loses over £2m a year. Where is the independent business case that says that £40m to acquire an asset that loses such vast amounts of money year in year out can be turned round?
“Who is going to pay for those losses? Are the local authorities – whose funding this callous Tory Government has already slashed in half – going to have to foot the bill?
“If TVCA want a transformational transport investment why not fund a world class bus network across the region? This would be a game changer for the people of Tees Valley.
“Like many people across Tees Valley, I want us to have a thriving airport, but we do have to ask ourselves the difficult question of whether this should be at any cost.”