‘New airport a flight of fancy’

A BUSINESS leader has grounded a proposal to close two airports and create a new one on land near Peterlee.

Leading transport expert Tim Narey, who is a divisional director with international architecture giant Aedas, has commissioned a feasibility study which he says proves the case for a new vision for air travel in the region.

Mr Narey says Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley airports schould close and be replaced with a new facility built between the two.

But North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive, James Ramsbotham, was sceptical about the proposal and said it “seems both unlikely and unnecessary”.

Mr Narey believes businesses would welcome the creation of a new gateway to the region, built between the A1 and A19 to the north of Peterlee.

“If you stuck a pin in the map and drew a 20-mile radius around it, you would take in 90 per cent of the North-East conurbation,” he said.

He says neither of the region’s existing airports – Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley – is suitable for the long-term future.

He said: “There are business people from Tees Valley who prefer to go to Leeds/Bradford or even Manchester.

“A new airport in the centre of the region will grab that business.

“Newcastle is contained in terms of expansion. You can keep investing to build this extension or that extension, but what you need is a development that caters for the whole region.

“There are some really big decisions to come for this region in the next 10 to 50 years about how important we want to be as part of the jigsaw of the UK.”

Mr Narey is keen to emphasise no actual site has been identified yet and even if his plan does win support from the region’s business community, any development is years – possibly even decades – away from breaking ground.

He said: “Terminal Five at Heathrow took 10 years just to get planning permission.

“You really need to take the long-term view when you are talking about projects like this.”

Mr Narey has approached the North East Chamber of Commerce about his plans, but faces an uphill struggle to convince chief executive James Ramsbotham, who said: “To propose combining our regional airports seems both unlikely and unnecessary as we already have the capacity to support increasing flight numbers.

“With both airports currently investigating ways to expand, we need to focus effort on encouraging investment and attracting airlines as we seek to grow our routes and protect the strategic connections we already have in the face of competition.”