Teesside Airport 'not for sale': Ben Houchen's response to interest in half-share ownership

The Tees Valley Mayor has insisted Teesside International Airport is not for sale after interest was expressed for a near half-share ownership.

British businessman Michael Flacks said he is in "engaged" in talks with officials to acquire a 49-per cent stake in the publicly-owned airport at Darlington. Mr Flacks disputed a press report which said the plan was to cancel passenger flights.

There was "no intention of closing passenger flights or stopping them", he said, and the plan was to "slightly increase" them with further investment in new facilities such as hangars. Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said his ten-year plan for the airport was working, adding: "It is not for sale."

In 2018, a deal to bring the beleaguered airport back into public ownership was struck, a key Mayoral pledge by Lord Houchen at the time. Mr Flacks' proposed deal, first reported in the Financial Times, would value the airport at £40m, which is the same price paid by local authorities when it was acquired from Peel Holdings.

The proposal from Flacks Group comes just weeks after the company sealed a deal to snap up the former Elementis plant at Eaglescliffe amid plans for significant regeneration. The company is progressing with development for the site, which is likely to be include mixed-use spaces, residential and commercial areas, revitalisation of green space and delivery of renewable energy projects.

A spokesman for the airport confirmed the "expression of interest" and said officers have a duty of carrying out due diligence" to vet the offer. Lord Houchen said the interest a "massive vote of confidence" in the airport and officials have "done the diligent thing in assessing these proposals".

He said: "From my point of view I don't think we should ever be selling our airport, we should be protecting it for the future. As you would expect these kind of speculative pieces of interest come in and officers look into them because they have to.

“However, I have always been clear that the public should own Teesside Airport. That is the mandate I have and that is how things should remain.

“So while it shows our ten-year plan is working and private investors can see great value in the airport, it is not for sale and will remain in public ownership. Our plan is working and our airport is staying as it is.”

Lord Houchen, re-elected for a third term Mayor this month, has championed the expansion at the airport, recently announcing a pledge to add new flights to Malaga and Tenerife. This week, daily flights with Eastern Airways to Aberdeen took off from the airport, just weeks after Loganair scrapped its route to the Scottish city.

The flights will be increased to twice daily from September and Lord Houchen said it was "excellent news for the many local workers who use this flight to commute to offshore work."

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