Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has introduced new protections, which ensure that the Teesside International Airport cannot be sold without the vote of locals.

The move introduces a public referendum, which would be held across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool before a sale could be carried out in the future.

A new independent charitable trust, the Teesside Airport Foundation, is being established to safeguard the future of the airport.

A stake of 25% in the airport will be held by the new trust that will be transferred back to the airport, at no cost, from Esken, which was formerly called Stobart Group.

Aviation and energy infrastructure group Esken recently concluded its role as a strategic partner and operator of the airport.

The new foundation, which will include an independent board of trustees made up of eligible local people, will also focus on education, employment, welfare and regeneration across the region.

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To support the trust, funds will initially be set aside and increased as the airport moves into profit in line with its Ten-Year Turnaround Plan.

The Teesside Airport Foundation will provide financial support and assistance to charities running schemes, initiatives and projects which help to improve the lives of people across the region.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “With the requirement of a referendum, never again will our airport face the prospect of being sold off without the express permission of local people.

“Establishing the Airport Foundation goes even further in making our airport give back to the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. When in profit, it will provide support to local people, helping them get into work or education or back projects that will transform our area.

“It will be made up of local champions with a strong desire to see our airport and the Tees Valley succeed and, to make it free from political bias, we have put in place rules so politicians like me aren’t allowed near it.”

Last month, Teesside Airport revealed that it is testing a new biological threat detection system to detect coronavirus in the air.