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War of words over new Durham Tees Valley Airport hotel

04.08.07

Two high profile North-east businessmen have launched a war of words over rival plans for new Durham Tees Valley Airport hotels. As reported earlier this week, Northcare Developments, owned by George Houghton, the chairman of Darlington Football Club, has just won planning approval for an 80-bed hotel next to the entrance to the fast-expanding airport.

However Durham Tees Valley Airport's managing director Hugh Lang, believes the new hotel will undermine plans for their own 100-bedroom airport hotel, part of a wider £56m scheme with business park, which were approved earlier in the year, and has launched a blistering attack on his rivals.

Mr. Lang says planners in Darlington should not have granted Mr Houghton planning permission as there is not sufficient demand for hotel beds at the airport to support both schemes. But Mr. Houghton has branded Mr. Lang's comments as 'a massive overreaction'.

Mr. Lang said: 'We have taken 2½ years to get to this stage with our development and had to take in a whole range of conditions on highway upgrades, etc. We are disappointed that somebody can now come in under the radar and get permission for another hotel. We have permission for our development based on the needs of the airport. Is there a need for another hotel?'

But Mr. Houghton responded: 'Northcare's hotel plan near the airport is part of a £100m investment strategy by my businesses in and around Darlington. There is no doubt that the area needs new hotels and I have presented a perfectly viable planning proposal which has been accepted on its merits.'

'Durham Tees Valley Airport does not have a divine right to priority in the planning system. There has been a massive overreaction by the airport's managing director. Instead he should be ready to compete to provide passengers and the public with the facilities they need and deserve. Simply complaining because an enterprising company has entered the market will not do.

The new hotel will be built by Northcare Development on land north of Cleveland Motor Homes, near Middleton St George. Approving the application, Darlington Borough Council's planning committee said that they were concerned with planning issues, not commercial ones. It is not known when work on building, due to be three stories high in an 'L' shape, will begin.

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