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Carlisle Airport: Legal and planning obstacles still remain

Plans to redevelop Carlisle Airport have been cleared for take-off, raising hopes of scheduled flights to London and Dublin by this time next year.

Related: Carlisle Airport: ‘How many of those jobs actually go to local people?

Related: Stobart Group gets go-ahead for Carlisle Airport scheme

City councillors have approved in principle Stobart Air’s £25 million scheme for a 394,000sq ft freight-distribution centre and to resurface the runway for passenger flights and air freight.

But there are still legal and planning obstacles to be overcome. And objectors could yet seek a judicial review of the council’s decision.

The development control committee voted by 11 to one in favour of the scheme.

Chairman Terry Scarborough said: “This development goes hand in hand with the airport to make it sustainable and viable.

“I have no doubts in approving it.”

Fellow Labour councillor Hugh McDevitt said the benefits “far outweigh the negatives”.

Conservative Ray Bloxham was the only councillor to vote against.

He was worried that extra traffic would add to hazards on the A689.

Planning officer Angus Hutchinson recommended “on balance” that councillors approve the plans, even though allowing the freight distribution centre in open countryside was against policy.

He said the loss-making airport was at risk of closure.

The development would keep it open for general use although the council’s aviation consultants doubted whether scheduled passenger flights and air freight would survive for long.

The council received 13 petitions and 391 letters supporting Stobart’s planning application, and 92 objections. Some objectors and supporters spoke at the meeting yesterday.

Peter Elliott, a long-standing opponent, said the runway needed to be realigned to avoid a hazard from geese.

He told councillors: “If you grant planning permission, I will take you to judicial review as sure as it rains in Cumbria.

“Save the local taxpayers £400,000. Refuse the application lawfully.”

Irthington farmer Gordon Brown overturned a previous planning consent by judicial review. In a dramatic twist, councillors were handed a letter from his solicitor Dickinson Dees arguing that cross-subsidising the airport from the distribution centre – as proposed – was illegal under European law.

Mr Brown was represented by aviation consultant Richard Connelly, who claimed that it would be easy for Stobart to show the airport was not viable.

It would then close and the council would be left with a “road-based freight distribution centre in the middle of the countryside, in conflict with [the council’s] development plan”.

Irthington resident Mike Fox said that moving Eddie Stobart’s haulage depot from Kingstown to the airport would add an extra 500,000 vehicle miles each year as the new site is further from the M6.

Craig Nicholson, chairman of Stanwix Rural parish council, was worried about extra traffic on the A689 and he predicted that, far from Stobart’s claims, jobs would be lost if the scheme went ahead.

Alistair Welch, managing director of Stobart Air asked councillors to look at the success Stobart’s had made of London Southend Airport. He said: “In 2008, there were many people in Southend who felt the airport had no future.

“Since then we have invested £100m and there are 500 more people working there than there were last summer.”

Richard Greenwood, development director of Cumbria Tourism, said that tourism was growing more slowly here than in areas of the country that had access to an airport.

Passenger flights would help bring overseas visitors, especially from the US and northern Europe, short-break visitors from London.

John Grainger, managing director of Invest in Cumbria, said: “It is imperative that the sub region [Cumbria] has a viable airport.

“The investment would sustain existing jobs and create many more employment opportunities.”

And Laurie Price, of Mott MacDonald, Stobart’s aviation consultant, countered claims that scheduled flights would not be viable.

He said there were 54 routes in the UK carrying fewer than 50,000 passengers a year.

Before planning consent is confirmed, the council will take legal advice on Dickinson Dees’ claim that the proposal breaches European law.

Stobart will have to sign a binding agreement to keep the airport open unless it can show it is not viable, even with the rental income from the distribution centre.

The company must also pay £100,000 to enhance wildlife habitats.

The distribution centre cannot be used until the runway is resurfaced and neither flights nor the distribution centre can start operations until United Utilities has upgraded Irthington waste-water treatment works.

All these conditions could be academic if there is another application for judicial review.

Mr Brown said after the meeting he was considering his position.

Have your say

scheduled fights will not work the airlines will pull out after 1 year. i fly from blackpool and its 1hour away it a great airport but they have flights pull out, it hard when u got good airports round us like manchester ect, and blackpool had ryanair flying to london it left pulled the flight so no chance carlisle,

Posted by paul on 26 February 2013 at 17:55

John I live NEAR an airfield, soon to be an industrial estate an airport would be good, I could fly to the States to see my family. I have read the reports and they don't stack up to be an airport. However if the airport did happen, I am not selfish enough to want planes to fly over the school, this could be averted if the runway was changed

Posted by CM on 9 August 2012 at 09:01

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