Success of the Tees Valley region relies on all partners working together – Mayor Ben Houchen

Last year we reached a deal with Peel to take our local airport back into public ownership. Earlier this year we got the agreement of five Labour leaders of our local authorities to do this. This month we officially got hold of the keys and appointed an experienced operator to run the airport on our behalf.

Friday, 29th March 2019, 8:25 am
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen with Stobart Groups Kate Willard. Picture by Dave Charnley Photography

Stobart Aviation has successfully turned around London Southend Airport, is about to relaunch Carlisle Lake District Airport, and are in the process of acquiring Flybe. Now, it has entered into a joint venture with the people of the Tees Valley to run our airport.

Stobart is working with us to deliver our 10 Year Rescue Plan. This is to secure seven new routes over the next five years, to attract a low cost carrier by 2022, and to return the airport to profit by 2026.

The scale of the challenge could seem daunting – we bought an airport servicing 138,000 passengers and have set ourselves the target of taking this to 1.4 million. There is a long road ahead, but we’ve pushed aside the party politics and ideology, and secured what is demonstrably a viable and valuable public asset.

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If these past few months have taught me anything, it’s that our success as a region depends on our ability to work together and to be positive about what we have to offer. Central government, councils, businesses and local people working hand-in-hand to make those big, bold and ambitious decisions.

This is what devolution is all about – putting money, powers and responsibility back in the hands of local people who know their area best.

We need to shout about our area and talk up both Hartlepool and the wider region, because if we don’t nobody else will.

I wasn’t elected to cut ribbons and smile for pictures, nor was I elected to sit back, give up and manage decline. This is what governs my attitude to our airport and regional economic development in general.

On top of this, we also need to look after our assets. If we want our high street shops to resist pressure from online retailers, we have to vote with our wallets and use them. If we want our local attractions and museums to be there for generations to come then we have to visit and promote them. And yes, if we want flights to all manner of global destinations from our international airports, we have to use it.

The reality is, that over the coming years, people in Hartlepool will have more choice in where they fly from and to. You don’t have to fly from Teesside, and it’s the job of our new airport operator to make it an attractive proposition to you. But when you do fly you would be doing our local economy a favour if you do your best to fly local.

Slowly but surely we’re rejecting defeatist inaction and silencing the voices of pessimism that are holding my economy back. If there was one lever I could pull to make this airport into an instant success, I’d pull it tomorrow. The same goes for revitalising our economy. The truth is, we’ve made a great start together, and only be persevering will we be able to enjoy the payoff due for all this effort.