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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Fresh doubts about Carlisle airport redevelopment plans

Fresh doubts have emerged about a £25 million scheme to redevelop Carlisle Airport.

Gordon Brown photo
Gordon Brown

The city council this week received a solicitor’s letter, sent on behalf of objector Gordon Brown, demanding that it revisits the decision to grant planning permission.

Councillors agreed in August that Stobart Group could build a 394,000ft freight-distribution centre and resurface the runway in readiness for scheduled passenger flights and air freight.

But consent has yet to be signed off because one of the conditions set has still to be fulfilled. The letter from Dickinson Dees argues that, where consent has not been confirmed, the council can reconsider its decision if “new material of relevance” comes to light.

The thrust of the letter is that councillors passed what planning officers said was a “finely-balanced” application because they were swayed by Aer Arann’s promise of scheduled passenger flights. The airline wrote in support of Stobart’s scheme, saying it would station a 48-seater ATR42 aircraft at Carlisle to provide twice-daily flights to London Southend and a daily Dublin service.

Dickinson Dees points to Aer Arann’s recent decision to withdraw from Waterford Airport in Ireland.

The three routes from Waterford carried 66,756 passengers in the year to October, roughly the same as the projections for passenger numbers from Carlisle.

The letter says: “If the 66,756 passengers carried by Aer Arann on the Waterford routes were insufficient to sustain those routes....passenger numbers from Carlisle will not be able to sustain the proposed routes.

“The cessation of all services at Waterford Airport by Aer Arann is clearly a material consideration.”

The letter warns that, if the council confirms planning consent without taking account of this new information, its decision “would clearly be susceptible to challenge by way of judicial review”.

The Court of Appeal quashed an earlier planning consent in 2009 after Mr Brown, who farms opposite the airfield, sought a judicial review. A council spokeswoman said: “We have received the letter and will consider the request.”

Stobart declined to comment. Aer Arann, which trades as Aer Lingus Regional, is part owned by Stobart Group. It will cease its Waterford services in January.

It withdrew its only non-Irish route – Isle of Man to London City Airport – in April but has launched new services this year from Dublin to London Southend, Knock to Birmingham, and Shannon to Rennes in Brittany.

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