In the many good news stories we’ve been involved in recent weeks – including the opening of Hartlepool’s Church Square and a multi-billion pound energy project just across the river – there’s one I’m particularly proud of.
Before I was elected Mayor, I promised to take Teesside Airport back into public ownership. And just last week, I announced that I have agreed a deal with Peel Airports to do just that.
This is a deal that will secure our airport’s long-term future, and delivers on the number one election pledge I made to the people of the Tees Valley. An airport owned by the people, for the people - and an airport that will serve the interests of our growing economy, and the people who live here.
Using the £513million fund that has been devolved to our area from central government, I am proposing to just over 6% of that – £35million – to take our airport back into public ownership to secure its long-term future. We will also be acquiring 819 acres of land around the airport too.
To ensure we can stop the planned 350-home development outside the terminal, as part of the deal we have also acquired this site for £5million. We need to stop these houses in order to make this airport a success.
The rest of our huge investment fund – 94% of it – will be spent on our other priorities. £130million for education and skills; £36million to support business growth; £10million to support R&D; and £143million for transport.
A year ago, I pledged that I would never ask Council Tax payers to fund my plans while in office, and my proposals stick to that. There will be zero impact on your Council Tax bill, zero impact on Hartlepool Council’s budget, and zero impact on public services you use.
We have this money from central government, and we’re able to invest in the local priorities most important to us without resorting to tax hikes. That’s true for the £20million we’ve already invested into Hartlepool, and its true for the £39million we intend to invest in the town over the coming years.
But in order to get this deal over the line, I need the support of our local authority leaders. That’s why I’m calling an emergency meeting for the January 24 to approve this plan. If the council leaders vote for my plan, we will secure our airport’s future for generations to come. If they reject my plan, our airport could close in 2021 – it’s as simple as that.
Before the emergency meeting I’ll be publishing the full business case and full turnaround plan for all to see. We will be completely open, honest and transparent throughout this entire process.
This is a golden opportunity which will help the Tees Valley – and its residents – take flight.