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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Airport expansion approved

The expansion of Teesside Airport will create hundreds of jobs and help “open Darlington to the world”, councillors heard, after plans for a new facility were approved.

A new aircraft maintenance site, which includes five hangars for repair, will be built after councillors agreed to the project at a Darlington Council planning meeting on Wednesday.

The applicant, Willis Aviation, will invest £25 million into the project and hopes to create between 250 to 300 jobs in the region.

Willis Aviation Village Image: LDRS

Plans show the new facility will be built on land to the west of the main terminal building, which was originally earmarked for 350 homes before it was bought as part of a deal to bring the airport back into public ownership in 2019.

However, a total of 15 objections to the proposal were received. Residents aired concerns over the size of the hangars, which are said to be built just 200m away from gardens, with Jacqueline Cooper branding the proposed hangars “horrendous”.

“The actual construction of this will be a nightmare,” she added.

Teesside Airport forms part of the Freeport site in the region, with the latest plans forming part of its expansion, but people fear it is being favoured over residents’ concerns.

Speaking at the meeting, Paul Foster said: “Surely another location can be found on the airport.

“The benefits of the Freeport are going to outweigh the inconvenience of residents.

“What are these Freeport advantages that override residents’ quality of life concerns?”

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Ian Haszeldine questioned the need for the development due to the loss of potential agricultural land.

“This could be potentially lifesaving land in two years’ time. I’m not against it I just think it’s in the wrong place and the wrong size.”

But, despite the concerns, the proposal was approved by councillors after a vote. It followed Cllr Gerald Lee announcing his support of the proposal, saying it would “open Darlington to the world”.

Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen said: “This decision marks another big step forward for our airport – and I’m delighted these vital plans have been backed.

“I have always said that for our airport to truly flourish, it must be about more than just holiday flights – and we are delivering just that.

“Willis is making a huge commitment to Teesside and today marks another great leap in securing our airport’s future.

“When we launched the UK’s first and largest Freeport, we did so on the promise it would create well paid jobs for local people and that is exactly what this investment will do.”

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