A CUMBRIAN business leader has criticised the focus towards getting planes back in the air at the Carlisle Lake District Airport. 

Managing director of Cumbria's Chamber of Commerce Suzanne Caldwell's comments follow after the Esken group announced that the 'short-medium' term strategy was to get the airport operational again as it recovers from the pandemic. 

"If someone can make the airport work with private money, then great because who would turn that opportunity down. 

"The concern is that a lot of really good business people have tried over the years with a lot of private money and big slugs of public money and it hasn't worked. So realistically, is it ever going to? 

"Certainly there shouldn't be any more public money going into it anymore, which I don't think there is," she said. 

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Ms Caldwell believes the money being pumped into the project could be better spent elsewhere to improve Cumbria. 

"There's a lot more urgent that would make much more of a difference to Cumbrian businesses that need focusing on. In terms of sorting out challenges of economy, energy prices, labour shortages and the trains. 

"The trains in normal circumstances are actually a much better alternative. It's much more environmental sound. Is it really the time to be encouraging more airport activity, you have to question it on an environmental stand-point. 

"Realistically, people aren't going to get on a plane and go on holiday, they are going to have get on a little plane to go to another airport to transfer. Isn't it easier to travel to Glasgow or Manchester and just get on the plane where you're going to. 

"If someone's got a plan that will make behind the airport that will work, we're absolutely behind it, we're not anti-airport. We just think there's an awful lot of challenges and lots of reasons for it not to work - it's not the biggest priority," she said. 

READ MORE: Readers discuss future plans for Lake District Airport

Communications director of the Esken group, Charlie Geller, has stated that they have not said they are considering commercial flights - with more of a focus aimed at the potential viability of using the space as an air freight hub. 

"The company’s short to medium term strategy is to get the airport operational again following the period of inactivity associated with the pandemic, which has had a significant impact on the UK’s aviation sector.

"Once operational with general aviation, we will explore opportunities including business jet, military and other general aviation. Building upon the strong logistics history of Esken and our freight operations experience at London Southend Airport, the company is additionally exploring opportunities to develop the airport as an air freight hub for a gateway to northern England and Scotland.

"The business strategy and development of the airport has the full support of Esken, who will provide the necessary financing to allow the company to continue to trade and develop its assets," they said. 

READ MORE: What next for Lake District Airport after two-year closure?