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Airport demands action not "warm words" from government
A North-East airport has urged the government not to turn its back on regional transport hubs.
Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) was dismayed to see its recent bid rejected for £5.9m from the Regional Growth Fund to develop a massive freight operation and create up to 1,500 jobs. Airport owners Peel intend to press ahead with their ambitious plans.
Responding to the government's draft aviation policy DTVA called for it to include measures, such as tax breaks, reduced red tape and a new taskforce, rather than "warm words." It also wants Local Enterprise Partnerships to be handed powers to help lead aviation policy.
Peter Nears, Peel’s strategic planning director fears the debate has concentrated on Heathrow and failed to acknowledge the crucial role played by regional airports as drivers of economic growth. He said: “The government draft policy talks of the importance of regional airports to connectivity and the growth of local economies. "However, if this is to be more than warm words, it needs specific action to move away from the current situation where airport policy debate is dominated by the issue of capacity in the South-East.
He added: “The economic problems of recent years have had a disproportionate impact on smaller regional airports, especially those located in areas of high deprivation such as the Tees Valley. Yet regulation costs and taxation do not take account of either airport size or local economic circumstances and that is clearly inequitable.
“We also believe that the government must reconsider the need for a lower regional rate for Airport Passenger Duty, given the widening in economic performance between South and North and the financial pressures on smaller regional airports.
“We already work closely with our Local Enterprise Partnership, Tees Valley Unlimited, and the government’s draft policy mentions the possibility of LEPs taking a wider role. However, if that is to happen, they must have the resources to do the job.
“What is crucial is that government recognises that aviation policy cannot be considered in isolation—it must be co-ordinated with national economic objectives, in particular the disparity between North and South and the need to balance the economy in favour of manufacturing.
“Here in the Tees Valley, our industries contribute over £10bn to the UK economy—in the last 12 months alone, the private sector has generated an additional 6,500 jobs and over 30 per cent of the UK process industries are located here.
“That should be important to the government in co-ordinating transport and economic policies. The policy framework refers to a taskforce for South-East airports, yet there is nothing equivalent for regional airports in the North.
“We have real and recent experience of the need for a joined up approach following our failed bid to the Regional Growth Fund and we believe it is an issue which has to be tackled if the government is to develop a genuinely national policy for aviation.”