Airport not for sale, says Ben Houchen as ‘expression of interest’ confirmed

The mayor of Tees Valley has insisted that Teesside International Airport is not for sale after interest was expressed for almost half a shareholding.

British businessman Michael Flacks said he is “involved” in talks with officials to acquire a 49 percent stake in Darlington’s public airport. Mr Flacks disputed a press release saying the plan was to cancel passenger flights.

There was “no intention to close or stop passenger flights”, he said, and the plan was to “expand these somewhat” with further investment in new facilities such as hangars. Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said his 10-year plan for the airport was working, adding: “It’s not for sale.”

In 2018, a deal was struck to return the besieged airport to public ownership, a key promise made by the mayor at the time through Lord Houchen. Flacks’ proposed deal, first reported in the Financial Times, would value the airport at £40m, which is the same price paid by local authorities when it was acquired from Peel Holdings.

Flacks Group’s proposal comes just weeks after the company struck a deal to take over the former Elementis factory in Eaglescliffe, amid plans for significant regeneration. The company is progressing with development of the site, which is likely to include mixed-use spaces, residential and commercial areas, revitalization of green space and the delivery of renewable energy projects.

An airport spokesperson confirmed the “expression of interest” and said officers have a duty to conduct due diligence” to investigate the offer. Lord Houchen said the interest was a “huge vote of confidence” in the airport and that officials had “done the necessary diligent thing in assessing these proposals”.

He said: “From my point of view I don’t think we should ever sell our airport, we should protect it for the future. As you would expect, these kinds of speculative interests come in and agents investigate them because they have to.

“However, I have always been clear that the public should own Teesside Airport. That is the mandate I have and that is how things should remain.

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