Carlisle Airport land wrangle leads to 45 job cuts at Stobart Group

29.1.2010   (Cumberland News)

A protracted dispute over grazing land at Carlisle Airport which has delayed
the start of its £25 million redevelopment has led to 45 workers being laid off.

Stobart Group chief executive Andrew Tinkler had hoped that work would start
this month but it is not now likely to start until March because four farmers
with grazing rights at the airport – including two whose leases cover land earmarked
for a new warehouse and offices – are refusing to surrender the land.

Mr Tinkler said this week that the farmers between them had been offered a six-figure
sum and alternative grazing land.

But they have still refused to give up the land, which extends over 200 acres.

The development is a key element of the Stobart Group’s long-term growth plan,
which will see the airport transformed into the company’s national HQ and potentially
into a regional centre for aviation services.

Mr Tinkler said he had originally scheduled work to begin on the Airport in January
– a traditionally quiet time on the railways – so that 45 Stobart Rail workers
could be employed in various construction jobs. But the delay in starting the
project has forced the company to lay

off those men.

Mr Tinkler said: "January and February are traditionally a quiet time for Network
Rail and that’s why we planned to start the airport at that time.

"We’d planned to relocate those Stobart Rail jobs to the airport.

"I had to let those workers go just after Christmas. It’s not a nice thing to
do but we have to be commercially viable.

"I want to be a good neighbour and I am not getting at these four farmers. I
understand that they are business people but it’s about trying to get a sensible
agreement that everybody can be happy with. All I’m saying is that there is the
human cost for these delays.

"You have to work that way in this sort of economic environment – you have to
keep things tight."

Mr Tinkler hopes most if not all of the workers will be re-hired when the redevelopment
gets underway.

He has argued that the terms of the farmers’ leases mean that they should surrender
their grazing land after just two months notice if the reason is "airport related".

He said: "They’re saying it’s not airport related because it will be a distribution
centre for Eddie Stobart but my argument is that the airport is unsustainable
without income from Eddie Stobart which can support it, but that’s an argument
for a judge."

Mr Tinkler added that the crucial land involved covers 28 acres, saying that
as well as offering enhanced compensation he had offered the farmers alternative
grazing land within the airport site.

The new airport facilities, much of which Mr Tinkler hopes will be built by October,
will ultimately employ 100 people.

Gordon Brown, one of the four farmers leasing land, said: "I have no problem
with the development of Carlisle Airport but it should take place within the law
and I believe the actions of Carlisle City Council in granting planning permission
were unlawful."

Carlisle City Council believe that Carlisle needs a viable working airport and
is in the process of defending its decision to grant planning permission for development
at the airport in the ongoing Judicial Review* proceedings.


*   The case will go to the High Court in London on 20th and 21st April



for more about Carlisle airport and this dispute see

Carlisle Airport