When I stood to be the first Tees Valley Mayor in 2016, I presented my bold ambition to take back Durham Tees Valley Airport – still known to most as Teesside International – into the hands of the people, for the people.
Why? The answer is simple. Our residents deserve an airport that is committed to transforming the region’s economy and shouts that the Tees Valley is a great place to invest, work, live and visit.
The people of the Tees Valley have fond memories of the airport in its heyday – memories I share. I believe that, as well as playing a part in our history, with the right care and leadership, it can play a vital role in our future by once again giving people access to holidays on their doorstep and act as a beacon for businesses.
With Peel, the owners, making it clear it wouldn’t have a life past 2021 and with more than 700 direct and indirect jobs facing the axe, something drastic needed to be done.
“As well as playing a part in our history, the airport can play a vital part in our future by acting as a beacon for businesses”
If we were to put the biggest single financial investment the Tees Valley Combined Authority has ever made into a project, it had to be considered alongside all our other commitments.
That is why my proposals formed part of a bigger 10-year Investment Plan for the Tees Valley, worth more than half a billion pounds, which was unanimously approved by the Combined Authority Cabinet.
We’re not just buying an airport, we’re also buying 819 acres of surrounding land that has planning permission for 350 homes. Stopping this development is crucial to our plans.
This is the first step in our robust, public 10-year business plan put together with the help of an experienced operator, who will run the airport on a day-to-day basis. The detailed scheme outlines how the airport could help create more than 7,500 jobs and add £421 million to the economy by 2027.
To do this, we’re targeting a low-cost airline to offer flights and help raise passenger numbers tenfold to more than 1.4 million. But I have always said that our airport in public ownership won’t just be about changing its name back to the instantly recognisable Teesside International, or flights to Alicante. We also need to attract commercial investors to get our airport back into profit.
That’s why I’ve been in talks with energy firms SSE and Equinor, which are currently working on the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank, about the opportunities our airport has to offer, including creating a helipad to service the development.
The Tees Valley is a UK leader in businesses operating in the offshore oil and gas, wind, decommissioning and subsea sectors, with hundreds more in the supply chain.
The planned helipad will enable engineers and support staff to fly from the airport, helping to create even more high-quality, long-term jobs in the sector, with a huge knock-on effect for our companies.
There are countless more opportunities out there, and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure investors the world over are aware that Teesside International Airport is open for business.
This isn’t the end of the road. This is just the start of the journey to secure new carriers to popular destinations, to take advantage of the opportunities, and to make the airport – and by extension Teesside – truly international.