Logistics giant Eddie Stobart could be in the running to operate Durham Tees Valley Airport.
The Tees Valley Combined Authority announced a £40m deal this week to bring the airport back into public ownership.
The airport, between Darlington and Yarm, is currently owned and operated by Peel Airports, which also runs Liverpool John Lennon and Doncaster Sheffield airports.
However, since the sale plans were confirmed, it has been suggested responsibility for the facility could be handed over to the Stobart Group.
“The rumour is that Eddie stobart is going to run it as a regional airport,” Adrian White, Durham County Council’s head of transport, told this morning’s (Friday, December 7) Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting.
“We [the council] would like to see the airport thriving – Peel Airports seems to be incrementally selling bits off for housing.”
The Stobart Group currently owns and runs London Southend Airport.
News about the deal between Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley Mayor, and Peel Airports was revealed on Tuesday (December 4).
This included £35m for Peel’s 89% shareholding in Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA).
The other 11 per cent is owned by six local authorities.
A further £5m was agreed to buy land next to the airport currently earmarked for 350 new homes.
The Mayor has now called an emergency meeting of the Tees Valley Combined Authority Cabinet in January 2019 to approve the deal.
If given the green light, ownership of DTVA could be transferred to the Tees Valley Combined Authority early in 2019.
However, the proposal has received a cold reception from council leaders in the region.
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, which has a 1.08% stake in the airport, accused the mayor working to undermine the current owners and warned he would now face an uphill battle to rebuild confidence.
Regarding the suggestion the Stobart Group could be appointed, a spokesperson for the Tees Valley Mayor’s office said: “We’re not going to comment on rumour or speculation.
“Earlier this year a non-disclosure agreement was signed between the Mayor and an airport operator.
“The Mayor will be announcing who that will be in the coming weeks.”
A spokesman for Peel Airports said there had been no discussions with the mayor’s office about a future operator for the airport, should the sale go ahead, and declined to comment on suggestions the Stobart Group could take over.
The Stobart Group declined to comment.
Local authority shareholders in Durham Tees Valley Airport:
Darlington Borough Council – 2.91%
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council – 2.08%
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council – 1.70%
Middlesbrough Borough Council – 1.69%
Durham County Council – 1.45%
Hartlepool Borough Council – 1.08%