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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

Carlisle Airport revamp should boost tourism and business - claim

Passenger flights from Carlisle Airport should boost tourism and help to attract inward investment, business leaders say.

The prospect of daily flights to London Southend and Dublin came closer when city councillors granted planning permission for a £25m redevelopment last week.

Stobart Group hopes to build a 394,000 sq ft freight-distribution centre and resurface the runway for air freight and scheduled passenger services.

Planning consent could be confirmed in a matter of days once a legal agreement between the council and Stobart is signed, although objectors may seek a judicial review of the council’s decision.

Rob Johnston, chief executive for Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, had been lobbying on Stobart’s behalf.

He said: “The chamber has been consistent on this.

“There are a number of benefits, not least for tourism. A working airport sends out the message that Carlisle and north Cumbria are open for business – and that you can get there.

“Common sense has prevailed. If the planning application had been refused, it would have given out a very negative vibe from an investment point of view.”

He added: “I am sure that Stobart Group will make a success of it.

“If you look into Europe there are a number of smaller airports, such as Berne in Switzerland, where they have developed business routes. It allows people to move around very quickly.”

John Grainger, managing director of Invest in Cumbria, is equally convinced that the airport will benefit businesses.

He said: “The airport will be a huge economic benefit, not just for north Cumbria but for Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders and western Northumberland.

“There are three things Carlisle needs to be taken seriously as a city – as opposed to a town – a Football League team, a university and an airport. It looks like we’ve got all three.”

Stobart’s chief executive, Andrew Tinkler, says he is keen to start the development.

But there is as yet no date for work to begin.

The council granted planning consent for the airport in April 2008, only for Mr Tinkler to withdraw the scheme when Hazel Blears, then the Communities Secretary, called a public inquiry.

A second planning application was approved in December that year but was quashed by the Court of Appeal after Irthington farmer Gordon Brown sought a judicial review.

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