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Friday, 19 September 2014

Carlisle airport decision delayed again over 'aid' claim

Councillors will be acting “unlawfully” if they grant planning permission to redevelop Carlisle Airport, an objector has claimed.

Carlisle Airport photo
Carlisle Airport

Irthington farmer Gordon Brown, who persuaded the Court of Appeal to quash an earlier consent, has again thrown a spanner in the works.

City councillors had been expected to confirm their in-principle decision last August to allow Stobart Group to build a 394,000sq ft freight-distribution centre and resurface the runway for scheduled flights.

However, when the development committee met yesterday, councillors decided to reconvene next Thursday to give their officers time to respond to Mr Brown’s latest objections.

The consent agreed last August has never been confirmed because of unresolved legal issues.

These include Mr Brown’s claim that granting permission might breach European ‘state aid’ rules.

The council’s legal advice is that it would be not.

But earlier in the week Mr Brown gave the council a copy of his barrister’s opinion, which takes the opposite view.

Officers are studying the document and will present their findings on Thursday.

The council’s director of governance, Mark Lambert, said: “Members require an analysis of that [legal] advice, and guidance as to the response the council should make.”

Mr Brown also argues that one of the proposed planning conditions in unenforceable.

This requires Stobart Group to keep the airport open unless the company can show it is not viable, even with rental income from the freight-distribution centre.

Mr Brown, who was given last-minute permission to address the committee, told councillors: “It is ironic that the agreement that is ostensibly designed to keep the airport open would be more likely to turn out to be its death warrant.”

Stobart chief executive Andrew Tinkler looked on impassively as councillors agreed to adjourn the item.

He said afterwards: “It is sensible that council members have up-to-date information.

“Hopefully they will come back next week, get proper advice from the planning officer and the lawyers, and everything will be positive.”

Mr Brown has indicated that he will seek a judicial review if planning consent is granted.

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