Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Devolving APD to Regions Too Risky; Claim North East Would Bear Brunt If'wrong Decision'is Made

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Devolving APD to Regions Too Risky; Claim North East Would Bear Brunt If'wrong Decision'is Made

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Regional affairs correspondent rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia.co.uk

DEVOLVING control of a key air levy to English regions would give way to a "chaotic" marketplace and leave North East airports unable to compete, regional aviation chiefs claim. Newcastle International Airport and Durham Tees Valley Airport are among eight airports calling for the Government to vary Air Passenger Duty (APD) in England, before Scotland and, potentially, regions like the North West are granted control of the charge.

Chiefs at Newcastle fear the airport could lose passengers to Glasgow, Edinburgh and now Manchester as the devolution agenda presents the Government with a fork in the road.

David Cameron is to devolve APD to ministers in Holyrood, who want to make the cost of a long-haul flight over the border significantly cheaper by slashing APD by 50%, with council chiefs in Manchester asking APD control be devolved so local leaders can scrap or vary the levy.

As part of a country-wide consultation on the issue, the two North East airports say competition between English regions would lead to "market distortion" and force passengers to make long journeys by car in search of cheaper flights. Independent financial modelling reveals that should APD be devolved to Scotland, Newcastle Airport would lose more than 500,000 passengers a year, whereas if APD were matched across England - if no English devolution on the levy were agreed - then the airport stands to gain some 1.3 million passengers factoring in new routes, such as the recent Newcastle to New York line.

Graeme Mason, planning and corporate affairs director at Newcastle Airport, accepts some regions hope APD will be devolved, but insists the levy should be approached as an English matter.

He said: "Nothwithstanding that there will be different views nationally, 'do nothing' is not an option for Newcastle Airport or the North East. …

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