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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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New delay for Carlisle Airport plans

Hopes of a quick decision on the future of Carlisle Airport have been dashed again.

Carlisle Airport photo
Carlisle Airport

Stobart Group’s £20 million plans to redevelop the airport will not now go before city councillors on August 8, as the company and objectors had been led to believe.

Carlisle City Council says it needs more time for its expert advisers to consider fresh information submitted by those both for and against the scheme.

Three times Stobart Group has won planning consent for a giant freight distribution centre, allied to the airport near Irthington to the east of the city, only for the proposals to fall foul of ministers or the courts.

The latest consent was quashed by a senior planning judge in March after Gordon Brown, a farmer who lives opposite the airfield, sought a judicial review.

Mr Justice Collins found a defect in viability forecasts.

Stobart is now offering a £250,000-a-year subsidy for scheduled flights to London Southend and Dublin, in the hope that the prospect of these will justify building a freight distribution centre in open countryside. It has asked the council’s development control committee to reconsider the previous planning application.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “At each stage of this application we have sought advice from a variety of technical experts relating to a number of aspects.

“This stage is no different and until we are in a position to provide members [councillors] with the required advice we will not be confirming the committee date for consideration of the application.”

Mr Brown is again opposing the plan. He has employed an aviation consultant, Louise Congdon of York Aviation, to assess Stobart’s proposals.

Her report argues that passenger flights would not be viable even with the subsidy.

She says Stobart’s projections for passenger numbers are out of date, citing official data that suggests the market for domestic air travel has shrunk since the figures were compiled in 2009.

Any subsidy, she says, would have to be “significantly greater” than the £250,000 promised by Stobart.

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