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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Date set for Cumbrian airport decision

STOBART Group’s £20m plans to redevelop Carlisle Airport are due to go back before city councillors on August 8.

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Lift-off? Carlisle Airport

Three times the company has won planning consent for a giant freight distribution centre only for the scheme to fall foul of ministers or the courts.

The latest consent was quashed by a senior planning judge in March after Gordon Brown, a farmer who lives opposite the airfield, sought a judicial review.

Mr Justice Collins found a defect in viability forecasts.

Stobart is now offering a £250,000-a-year subsidy for scheduled flights to London Southend and Dublin, in the hope that the prospect of these will justify building a freight distribution centre in open countryside.

It has asked the council’s development control committee to reconsider the previous planning application. This will happen at a special meeting on August 8.

Mr Brown is again opposing the plan. He has employed an aviation consultant, Louise Congdon of York Aviation, to assess Stobart’s proposals.

Her report argues that passenger flights would not be viable even with the subsidy.

She says Stobart’s projections for passenger numbers are out of date, citing official data that suggests the market for domestic air travel has shrunk since the figures were compiled in 2009.

She argues that a Carlisle to London journey by air would be no quicker than the train, and that Southend would offer few options for oconnecting flights.

Any subsidy, she says, would have to be “significantly greater” than the £250,000 promised by Stobart.

She concludes: “I remain of the view that air services are unlikely to be operated or, if operated at all, not sustained for more than a year or so once it is clear they are not capable of viable operation.”

Mr Brown has also written directly to the council.

His letter says: “The weight of evidence for refusing this application is overwhelming.

“It is scarcely surprising that the applicant would seek to argue otherwise but their claims lack credibility and are self-contradictory.”

Stobart’s first scheme, passed by the council in 2008, was dropped after it was called in for a public inquiry.

Councillors approved a second application in 2009 only for the decision to be quashed in the Court of Appeal when Mr Brown sought a judicial review.

The third planning application was approved in February last year.

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