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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Opponents may try to ground Carlisle Airport plan again

The dream of redeveloping Carlisle Airport to introduce passenger flights to London and Dublin may crash land for a fourth time if opponents decide to launch yet another legal challenge.

Gordon Brown photo
Gordon Brown

Carlisle City Council’s development control committee gave the £20 million plan the green light on Monday.

The approval has cleared the way for the long-awaited project, which will include the building of a huge freight distribution depot measuring 241m by 151m.

The latest application was made easier by a change in the law, which means Stobart no longer has to prove that the airport will be viable to secure planning approval.

The project will allow the transport giant to offer integrated road and air haulage in the north, as well as passenger flights to the group’s London Southend Airport and Dublin.

Stobart Group chief executive Andrew Tinkler said there is now nothing standing in the way of the redevelopment, which he believes will fuel business development in the area.

His company’s vision for the airport this week impressed the senior Labour politician who hopes to be the new Foreign Secretary should the party win the next General Election.

The only possible impediment would an opponent winning leave from a court to lodge a judicial review of the city council’s decision to give planning approval.

It emerged yesterday that Gordon Brown, the farmer who is the airport’s immediate neighbour, is now considering whether to apply for such a review.

It was his request that led to the judicial review which last derailed the airport expansion plan. He argued successfully that the viability forecasts for the redeveloped airport had been defective – a consideration which no longer applies.

Speaking to The Cumberland News, Mr Brown refused to rule out lodging a further legal challenge, saying: “The council’s decision doesn’t come as a surprise but the action they’ve taken was, in my view, of questionable legality. I’m looking at the documents and I can confirm that I cannot rule out a possible legal challenge.

“But these things can be very expensive and they have to be entered into carefully.”

On being told that Mr Tinkler had predicted the airport’s redevelopment would act as an economic catalyst for the site, Mr Brown added:“This has always been absolutely central.

“Building a 394,000 sq ft freight distribution centre on a greenfield site, located out of town, and housing businesses which could be located in Carlisle and reducing employment, does not constitute sustainable development.”

Mr Brown and other opponents have said Stobart shareholders were told some years ago that the project would cut employment costs for the firm.

They claim the real aim of the scheme is for Stobart to get its own huge freight distribution centre on its own site in an area which, without the lure of a passenger airport, would have been considered unsuitable.

But Mr Tinkler welcomed the planning approval, saying work on the redevelopment was likely to start in the next few months. He said: “We’re committed to the airport and we always have been.

“We believe the flights we have identified are sustainable, and we know our customers often require air freight. Now there is nothing to stop it going ahead.

“Once it is up and running it will be a catalyst, and it will create jobs there. That’s what we’ve seen at Southend.”

Mr Tinkler said Stobart Group is determined to see the project through.

Visiting Stobart’s Kingstown HQ this week, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: “Connectivity matters in a modern economy.

“The case put to me by Andrew and his team at Stobart is that they see this development as being a catalyst, not just for the airport but for the local economy.”

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