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Durham Tees Valley Airport master plan ready for take off
A PLAN to ensure the survival of scheduled passenger flights from Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) will be published within weeks – amid fears that holiday charter flights could be sacrificed.
The future of the ailing airport has been called into question after a massive drop in passenger numbers and the loss of key routes.
But last night majority shareholder Peel Holdings indicated that it was still prepared to stand behind the loss-making business and was drawing up a turnaround plan.
Peel believes the plan will safeguard the future of scheduled daily services to the international hub at Schiphol, in Holland, and shuttle flights to Aberdeen.
However, the future of seasonal charter flights to popular holiday destinations, such as Marjorca and Jersey, are understood to be under threat. Although no final decision has been taken, package holiday flights may be axed to cut costs and help realign the airport as a commercially-biased operation.
MPs welcomed news of a turnaround plan last night but one warned: "This must not turn into a plan to transition the airport into an industrial estate."
Peter Nears, Peel’s strategic planning director, said the rescue plan would help the airport build on its strengths - including its large landholding and the existing businesses.
He said: “Of course, everyone recognises that the past few years have been tough for Durham Tees Valley but the master plan is all about ensuring that we have the right business model to take the airport forward and reflect the significant changes in the market over the last decade.
“That is how we can best safeguard the airport and the vital services it provides, especially to the local business community who require international connections.”
Mr Nears said even the largest airports could not survive on passenger traffic revenue alone.
“In the case of smaller airports such as Durham Tees Valley it is essential that they create diverse income streams—and here the availability of development land is a major strength and will enable further investment in airport operations.”
As part of the redevelopment plans, the airport has recently bought a 9.5-acre former aircraft hangar, which was more recently used as a tennis centre, on the edge of the airport site near the rail station.
It is hoped the land will be suitable for an aviation-related engineering, storage or distribution operation.
Mr Nears said: “The draft plan we will be publishing in the near future sets out what we believes is a very positive vision - creating a vibrant and sustainable business as a stable and secure basis for ongoing investment in order that the development of Durham Tees Valley Airport is feasible and can be funded.”
The plan will go out for consultation next month.
Local MPs who have been briefed on the blueprint have been told that while the long-term future of scheduled flights is secure, the airport could decide to stop handling holiday charter flights in a bid to reduce costs.
This summer passengers have been able to fly to destinations including Majorca, Verona and Jersey, with Ibiza and Bulgaria among the locations planned for 2014.
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said: “I think it’s been a very bumpy ride over the last few years and now for the first time we can see viable long-term plan."
Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson also backed the blueprint.
“It seems to me that Peel are going to make a go of the airport. It’s losing money at the moment and that can’t continue.”
James Wharton, Stockton South MP, said he was pleased Peel was planning for the future.
However, he added: “This must not turn into a plan to transition the airport into an industrial estate.”
The airport said last night that no firm decisions had been taken regarding charter flights.
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