Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen says work to “rebuild Teesside Airport” will start on Friday after his plans to save it were given the go-ahead by council leaders.
The Conservative mayor for the Tees region officially launched a business plan to revive the airport earlier this month after striking a £40m deal with the airport’s owners, Peel, in December.
A 10-year investment plan – which includes the airport deal, among many other things – has to be approved by five local authority leaders of Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool and Darlington at a meeting of the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) this Thursday.
But during a series of media announcements on Tuesday, it became clear all five intend to support the investment plan.
In their statements, Middlesbrough mayor Dave Budd and Redcar and Cleveland leader Sue Jeffrey said there are still areas of concern surrounding the airport buyout, but say they intend to approve it during Thursday morning’s meeting.
“I’m delighted that all five council leaders have decided to put party-politics aside and throw their weight behind my plan to save Teesside Airport,” said Houchen.
“When I first pledged to take our airport back into public ownership, I was widely ridiculed and told it couldn’t be done. But thanks to the tens of thousands of you who put your faith in me, we are now within reaching distance of taking back control of our airport to secure its future for generations to come.
“If my 10 Year Rescue Plan is formally approved on Thursday, we will get to work on Friday to rebuild our airport. This will take time, but I’m ready for the challenge.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the people of the Tees Valley for sticking with me over the past 18 months. This is your victory too.
“Together, this will be an airport owned by the people, for the people, that will work in the interests of Tees Valley residents and our local economy.
“Let’s do this!”
Redcar’s Labour leader Jeffrey, who lost the Tees mayoral election to Houchen in 2017, said: “The plan is funded by cash from our devolution deal and will deliver projects across Redcar and Cleveland and the Tees Valley that will genuinely grow our economy, deliver improved transport and ensure that local people have the skills they need to get local jobs that are full-time and pay a decent wage.
“But our devolution cash is not limitless and we still have to make choices about where it can best be invested to support a better future for all the people of the Tees Valley.
“The mayor’s airport deal is one of those choices. It is the biggest single project in the plan that is funded only from our own resources and it has been allocated £75m of devolution cash (£40m to buy the airport and surrounding land, up to £20m to cover operating losses and £15m for improvements).
“If it fails then just over half of that cost can be recovered by selling the land. Not one penny of the funding is being provided by the private sector and not one bit of the financial risk will be taken by the operator, all the money comes from us and all the financial risk is taken by us.
“Does that add up to a good choice for the people of Redcar and Cleveland? Only time will tell…
“Despite all the hype, there will be no separate vote this week to ‘save the airport’.”