Thursday, 03 September 2015

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Carlisle council told to make up mind over city airport

Pressure is mounting on Carlisle City Council to make up its mind about plans for the city's airport.

Rob Johnston photo
Rob Johnston

Stobart Group wants to build a 394,000sq ft freight-distribution centre and resurface the runway.

Its planning application was due to go before councillors last July but was delayed at Stobart’s request.

Planners were advising councillors to refuse the application on the grounds that “the distribution centre appears to be primarily for road haulage rather than airport related”.

Stobart asked for time to challenge those findings.

Nine months later there is still no indication of when the planning application will be heard.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, believes the delay is damaging the economy.

He said: “It’s taking a long time and it’s getting in the way of decisions about investment. We would like this to be resolved as quickly as possible.

“We want businesses to relocate to Carlisle. We’ve got the Carlisle Northern Development Route and the prospect of nuclear new build in west Cumbria.

“The airport is another key piece in the jigsaw and it needs to be put to bed.”

Mr Johnston has written to Chamber of Commerce members urging them to write to the council by the end of the March to support Stobart’s proposals.

His letter says: “Every expression of support counts and will help to deliver what Cumbria needs.”

The council will convene a special meeting of its development control committee to decide the application.

A spokeswoman said: “A date to determine the application is in the process of being set. In the meantime, we are still in the process of evaluating the information supplied by the applicant.”

Councillors backed Stobart’s 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But the initial scheme was withdrawn after the then Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, called a public inquiry.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 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 insisted on an environmental-impact assessment.

The third application last year ran into difficulties when the council’s aviation consultants concluded that passenger flights would not be “commercially viable”.

They also said there was “very little potential” for air freight.

Stobart has since outlined proposals for regular passenger flights to London Southend, Belfast and Dublin.

It says less-frequent flights could operate to Inverness, Cardiff, Bristol, Southampton, Exeter, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, and possibly European destinations.

And the company claims Carlisle can be an air-freight hub for Tesco, flying in perishable goods from Spain and Holland for delivery to supermarkets across northern Britain.



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