WORK has begun to market land around Carlisle Lake District Airport to create a new business park for the city.

In the six months since the first commercial flights in 26 years took off from the runway, Stobart Group’s Kate Willard, head of corporate projects, said a major part of her work now was to attract development on the land surrounding the complex.

She said: “Even if flights were full all day every day, we must be clear that an airport - no matter what its size - is essentially a loss-making business.

“We need to constantly make sure it is sustainable - after all, Stobart Group is not a charity - and a big part of that is realising the assets of the land around the airport.”

She said that it was an important part of Stobart Group’s plan and added: “We are looking for businesses which want to relocate from different parts of Cumbria or from outside Cumbria.

“My attention is fully focused on how we make the business plan for the airport stack up.”

Before the airport opened, Stobart Group chief executive Warwick Brady said he hoped the airport would become a major hub for business and attract firms to take on land at the site.

In August of last year, he said: “We are in a great position.

“We have 31 acres of prime industrial land and that‘s a really big part of what we’re trying to do here. There’s an opportunity to develop.

“We want a regional airport and a land strategy – this could be a valuable industrial estate.”

Mrs Willard is also working closely with the city council’s chief executive Jason Gooding to develop a proposal for the airport to become a freeport.

Businesses located within a freeport zone can import, store products in a warehouse and re-export products duty-free. No airports in the UK currently hold designated freeport status due to European Union legislation.

Mrs Willard said: “We want to make sure that no matter which government is in power post-Brexit, if they decide to introduce freeports that we are on the best front foot we can be and come up with a brilliant freeport model.”

Mrs Willard said since the airport opened on July 4, ticket sales have been in line with the company’s expectations, but could not reveal numbers due to commercial sensitivity.

“It’s been a great first six months and we’re looking forward to the summer,” she added.

The firm is meeting with tourism organisations to make sure the airport and Cumbria is on the radar for marketing campaigns to encourage people to use the airport, she said.