Back Ben's Plan

Almost two years ago this week, I made a bold pledge to the people of the Tees Valley. I promised to take Teesside Airport back into public ownership.

After months of discussions, I am delighted to confirm that I have secured a deal with Peel to buy back our airport. 

This is a deal that will secure our airport’s long-term future, and delivers on the number one election pledge I made to the people of the Tees Valley. An airport owned by the people, for the people. An airport that will serve the interests of our growing economy, and the people who live here.

I know some politicians promise the world and walk away from their responsibilities, but I won’t be that type of politician. When you elected me, you gave me one job to take back control of our airport. And now I’m doing just that.

Using the £513million fund that has been devolved to our area from central government, I am proposing to just over 6% of that – £35million – to take our airport back into public ownership to secure its long-term future. We will also be acquiring 819 acres of land around the airport too.

To ensure we can stop the planned 350-home development outside the terminal – which was approved by the Labour chairman of Darlington’s planning committee – as part of the deal we have also acquired this site for £5million. We need to stop these houses in order to make this airport a success.

The rest of our huge investment fund – 94% of it – will be spent on our other priorities. £130million for education and skills; £36million to support business growth; £10million to support R&D; and £143million for transport. Over the coming years we’ll spending more on trains than we will be on planes. And rightly so.

Because I am proposing to use money devolved to our area from central government, there will be:

  • Zero impact on people’s council tax bills
  • Zero impact on local authorities
  • Zero impact on public services
  • Zero impact on local businesses

Let me be even clearer: you will not have to pay a penny extra to finance this acquisition. Our valued public services will not be affected by this deal. Our councils will be completely insulated from this deal. Our other priorities will still be delivered – and won’t be impacted by this deal.

Why am I bringing our airport back into public ownership?

My vision for our area, and this airport, is so much bigger than just getting flights back to Majorca. It has always been much more than that. This airport is a key part of my plan to build a high-growth, high-wage economy that works in the interests of everyone.

Regional airports are important catalysts to attract and retain economic growth. They enhance the performance of local industry, connect people, products and services to global opportunities, and drive tourism that helps our local communities to flourish.

But the reality is, inward investment doesn’t come on a bus – it comes through an airport terminal. This became clear as day to me when I led the Tees Valley’s first trade mission to the Far East earlier this year. Each and every investor I met – from Mitsubishi and Fujifilm, to Samsung and Lucite – asked about our international connectivity.

The stakes are even higher when you factor in our vision for the South Tees Development Corporation site in Redcar – the single biggest regeneration opportunity in the UK. Over the next 25 years we have a plan to create 20,000 new jobs for local people – adding £1billion per annum to our local economy.

Already we’re seeing MGT invest £650million into the world’s largest biomass power plant, Sirius Minerals are investing £3.2billion, and will soon export fertiliser from Teesport, and in December 2018 we announced a project of national significance – a multi-billion pound energy plant. Let there be no doubt that this area I’m proud to call home is alive with opportunity.

Our area recognised across the world as a great place to do business, and home to potentially billions of pounds worth of exciting opportunities for international investors. So to ensure that our area continues to be an excellent location to invest, grow and start a business, we need that missing piece of the jigsaw: a thriving international airport.

For the investors I speak to on the Development Corporation site and elsewhere, they’ve made it as clear as they can that the vicinity of an international airport is one of their key location factors.

So if we are to succeed in our plans to bring the former steelworks site back to life, to bring more investment to the area, to deliver jobs for local workers, to put our corner of this great island on the map: we need this airport to succeed too. For me, that site – and this airport – are two sides of the same coin. One can’t thrive without the other.

Taking back control of our airport presents a once in a generation opportunity for the Tees Valley to find its voice again. To be truly global, outward-looking, more confident and more visible on the international stage.

As we look to a positive future outside the European Union, we won’t just be competing with Newcastle, Leeds or Birmingham – our success depends on our ability to work, trade and collaborate with old friends and new allies around the world.  That means we have to be as accessible, visible, competitive, pro-active, and as ‘go get-‘em’ as possible. And it starts with securing the future of our airport.

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Is the money worth it?

The answer is yes: it absolutely is. If it’s good enough for the people of Manchester, Newcastle and Cardiff to take a public stake in their airport, so should we.

The Tees Valley has an investment fund totalling £513million over the next few years. Never mind the £450m that has been guaranteed to us by Government over the next few decades. And as months go by, this fund will get bigger and bigger as we secure more investment from government.

This is money that has devolved to our area from Whitehall to spend on the priorities we determine locally. Having an elected Mayor means you decide how I spend your money – taxpayers’ money – and where this money should go. And the beauty is: if you don’t agree with the spending decisions I make on your behalf, you can vote with your feet at the ballot box.

Since my election we’ve secured hundreds of millions of pounds from government:

  • £137million to bring jobs back to the South Tees Development Corporation site.
  • £107million to support our scientists at the Centre for Process Innovation in Redcar.
  • £75million to invest in our transport system.
  • £60million announced to improve post-19 education, to tackle congested pinch points, to get the long-term unemployed back into work, and to unlock brownfield land for housing to stop attacks on our cherished green spaces.

These are the sums of money we’re dealing with. Huge projects and huge investments.  In fact, in December we signed off £45million to start upgrades to Middlesbrough and Darlington rail stations. What I can say is that we will be spending more on trains than we will be on planes. And rightly so.

Because we have this money from central government, we’re able to invest in local priorities that we determine. And for the people of the Tees Valley, having a thriving local airport is a priority. It’s the mandate I have been given by the people of the Tees Valley.

Failure to secure the future of this airport will deprive the region of a significant economic asset. That’s why the deal we have agreed is worth it. It’s worth it to businesses that want the connectivity they need to grow. It’s worth it for the family that saves up throughout the year to get a break in the sun. It’s worth it for the private investment this acquisition will unlock.  And it’s worth it to stop the 350 homes that could be built just outside the terminal.

With a new plan, new leadership and a new vision, the airport will pay for itself.

Will this plan cost me?

You will not have to pay a penny extra to finance this acquisition. Our valued public services will not be affected by this deal.  Our councils will be completely insulated from this deal.

The housing will be stopped. Our other priorities will still be delivered – and won’t be impacted by this deal.

We’ll still be backing our innovators, job creators, entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Our road and rail infrastructure will still be upgraded. Our colleges will still get the cash they need to train our young people. It’ll be business as usual.

I have agreed a deal with Peel, but we still have one hurdle left to jump. 

My plan to save our airport will require the full support of our five local authority leaders to make this whole thing happen. I need the five leaders of our local councils to vote in favour of this plan. If they don’t, we can’t progress. It’s as simple as that.

Click here to write to your council leader and tell them to support my plan to save our airport.

The final deal and the turnaround plan will be published in full for all to see. We will be completely open, honest and transparent throughout.

But we need to remember four important things:

  • The deal will be public and open to scrutiny.
  • The deal will stop the housing development.
  • The deal will secure the long-term future of our airport.
  • And the deal will not cost you a penny more. Not a penny.

Thank you,

Ben