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Thursday, 10 July 2014

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Future of Carlisle Airport to be decided in July

The future of Carlisle Airport should be decided at a special city council planning meeting next month.

Carlisle airport photo
Carlisle airport

Stobart Group wants to build a 394,000sq ft freight distribution centre and to resurface the runway for scheduled passenger flights and airfreight.

Its planning application was to have been heard last July but was delayed at Stobart’s request.

The company asked for time to challenge findings from the council’s aviation consultants that passenger flights would not be “commercially viable” and there was “very little potential” for air freight.

Planning officers were advising councillors to refuse the application on the grounds that “the distribution centre appears to be primarily for road haulage rather than airport related”.

A new date was set of June 8 this year only for Stobart to ask for another postponement so it could respond to further comments from the consultants, Alan Stratford Associates.

The meeting is now scheduled to take place on July 8.

The council has received 388 letters and emails and 13 petitions in support of Stobart’s plans and 85 written objections and one petition against. The company says its scheme would create 125 jobs and safeguard 223 existing jobs, many of them transferred from the Eddie Stobart haulage depot at Kingstown, Carlisle.

Meanwhile, Irish airline Aer Arann, which is part-owned by Stobart Group, has told the council that it would base a 48-seat ATR 42 aircraft at Carlisle.

Its letter says: “There is sufficient leaking traffic from the catchment area to support direct air services from Carlisle Airport to both London Southend and Dublin.”

Alan Stratford Associates still argues that passenger and freight flights are not viable.

Councillors first backed proposals to redevelop the airport in 2008 but the proposal was dropped after the then Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, called a public inquiry.

The council approved a second planning application in 2009, only for the decision to be quashed in the Court of Appeal when Irthington farmer Gordon Brown sought a judicial review.

That decision landed the council with a £185,000 bill then a further bill for £76,000 after the district auditor was asked to investigate alleged “misuse of public funds”. She rejected the complaint but criticised the council’s handling of the planning applications.

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