Airport chiefs’ plea for Government support

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INVESTMENT in the Tees Valley’s airport links is lacking because the Government is concentrating on congestion in the south of England, it was claimed today.

And now, local officials are demanding a joined up approach between the Government’s economic and transport policies.

The call came from chiefs at Durham Tees Valley Airport who spoke out after their recent and its unsuccessful bid for funding to support a major development.

Its ten-year Southside project would create 1,500 jobs and develop 150 acres of land at the airport for freight operations.

But a bid for support from the Regional Growth Fund was not succesful.

Now, the airport has delivered its contribution to the consultation over the Government’s Draft Aviation Policy Framework.

As well as calling for a joined up approach on Government policieis, it also calls for a reduction in the tax and regulation burdens on smaller regional airports.

It says that Local Enterprise Partnerships should be given the resources to play a lead role in aviation policy.

Peter Nears, Strategic Planning Director for the Peel Group which runs the airport, said: “The Government draft policy talks of the importance of regional airports to connectivity and the growth of local economies. However, if this is to be more than warm words, it needs specific action to move away from the current situation where airport policy debate is dominated by the issue of capacity in the South East.

“The economic problems of recent years have had a disproportionate impact on smaller regional airports, especially those located in areas of high deprivation such as the Tees Valley. Yet regulation costs and taxation do not take account of either airport size or local economic circumstances and that is clearly inequitable.

“We also believe that the Government must reconsider the need for a lower regional rate for Airport Passenger Duty, given the widening in economic performance between South and North and the financial pressures on smaller regional airports.”

He said the fact that Tees Valley industries contribute over £10 billion to the UK economy “should be important to the Government in co-ordinating transport and economic policies. The Policy Framework refers to a Taskforce for South East airports, yet there is nothing equivalent for regional airports in the North.”

“We have real and recent experience of the need for a joined up approach following our failed bid to the Regional Growth Fund and we believe it is an issue which has to be tackled if the Government is to develop a genuinely national policy for aviation.”