Carlisle council delays decision on Stobart Group's city airport plan
Last updated at 13:33, Friday, 15 July 2011
Stobart Group has been given more time to prove that its proposals to bring scheduled passenger flights and air freight to Carlisle Airport are realistic.
City councillors had been poised to refuse Stobart’s planning application to redevelop the airport today.
The company wants to build a 394,000sq ft freight-distribution centre and resurface the runway.
But aviation consultants brought in by the council concluded that passenger flights would not be “commercially viable” and there was “very little potential” for air freight.
That led planning officers to advise councillors to refuse the application on the grounds that “the distribution centre appears to be primarily for road haulage rather than airport related”.
Stobart strongly disagrees and asked for time to challenge the consultants’ findings.
Councillors on the development control committee agreed. The planning application will now be heard on August 19 at the earliest.
Stobart Group employees packed the public gallery in the council chamber for today’s meeting.
Stobart chief executive Andrew Tinkler said afterwards that deferring the application was the right decision.
He said: “Now we can sit down with the report and discuss with the council and go through the points that have been raised by the experts they have appointed.”
Nearly 100 business people attended a meeting at the Hallmark Hotel, Carlisle, last night to hear about Stobart’s plans.
They saw a video, which claimed 679 Stobart Group jobs in Cumbria would be at risk if the scheme is thwarted.
Without redevelopment, the airport would close or be used as a private airfield for freight.
Mr Tinkler said: “The last thing I want to do is move Stobart from Cumbria. Our business has been built with Cumbrian people.
“They are good workers. We’ve benefited from that and I want to keep that."
He outlined proposals for scheduled flights to London Southend. The company claims the airport will be handling 200,000 passengers a year by 2025.
The freight operation would use small aircraft to fly fresh produce to the Scottish highlands and islands and the Isle of Man.
The distribution centre would employ 121 Eddie Stobart haulage staff moved from Kingstown and create 69 additional jobs. There would also be 20 new jobs on the aviation side.
Mr Tinkler added: “I want to get over what we’re trying to do. We believe in the vision. Even the council believes it can work but they did have expert advice, which questions what we’re trying to do.”
He said the council’s consultants, Alan Stratford and Associates, had based their findings on “speculation and guesswork”. He urged businesses to write to the council in support of his plans.
City councillors backed Stobart proposals to redevelop the airport as long ago as 2008. But the initial scheme was withdrawn after the then-Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, called a public inquiry.
The council approved a second planning application in 2009 without referring it for a inquiry only for the decision to be quashed in the High Court when Irthington farmer Gordon Brown sought a judicial review.
Judges ruled that the council should have demanded an environmental impact assessment.
Mr Tinkler said the judicial review had been upheld on a “technicality”.
Trevor Howarth, Stobart’s legal adviser, told the meeting that the council was wary of ignoring the advice of consultants in case it was challenged in the courts again.
He added: “The council’s experts and Stobart’s experts are poles apart. But the experts they have instructed were discredited at a public inquiry recently at Farnborough Airport."
Carlisle City Council has received 62 objections and 67 representations of support for Stobart’s scheme. The city council bought the former RAF Crosby-in-Eden in 1961 to operate as a civil airport but repeated attempts to launch passenger services in the 1980s and 1990s all foundered.
First published at 13:32, Friday, 15 July 2011
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
Have your say
I think if the Stobart Group are willing to take the risk with the airport then what's the problem? It's better to have it creating jobs than have it sat there doing nothing. Mr Tinkler & Mr Stobart have proved themselves to be very successful businessmen who will make this work given the chance, let's get behind them as a county and move with the times!!
Jon I agree CCC did pass the planning last time but after a JD the decision was over turned. The High Court found the council guilty of passing the planning application because of not taking into account the environmental impact of the "whole" developement. A technicallity but accept they should have done it correctly and within the law. Stobarts have been very Meticulous this time to ensure this has been done, however the report that the planning officer has published is flawed. Sorry but the Â£200k the council lost out last time is a drop in the ocean compared with the money already spent by Stobart in attempting to invest in the future of our county.
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