Becoming Part of The Stobart Group
Following WA Developments' decision to merge Eddie Stobart with the property and ports company the Westbury Property Fund on 15 August 2007 and to list it on the London Stock Exchange as the Stobart Group, Carlisle Lake District Airport initially remained within the ownership of WA Developments, through its subsidiary Stobart Air Holdings. On 10 March 2008, the Stobart Group entered into a £50,000 option, expiring in July 2008, to acquire Carlisle Lake District Airport from Stobart Air Holdings for £15 million (£2.5 million in cash and £12.5 million in new Stobart Group shares). This option was extended in July 2008 until January 2009 for a further £50,000.
On 2 December 2008, the Stobart Group announced the surprise £21 million purchase of London Southend Airport.
Planning permission was granted in December 2008 for the Carlisle Lake District Airport expansion and other developments, including a resurfaced runway and new terminal, a major transport and distribution facility for Eddie Stobart Ltd, along with a joint headquarters building.
In January 2009, Stobart Group's subsidiary, Stobart Airports Ltd, exercised its option to acquire Carlisle Lake District Airport from Stobart Air Holdings for £14 million (£1 million less than originally announced). Following an independent shareholder vote, the acquisition was completed on 30 May 2009, and the purchase price was reduced to £9.9 million due to a fall in the value of Stobart Group shares.
In October 2009 Andy Judge (former Leeds-Bradford, Bournemouth and Luton Airports Operations chief) took over as airport manager. On the 7 October at the Cumbria Tourist Board's AGM he confirmed that work at the airport would have begun early 2010 and hoped that flights to Paris, Belfast and Dublin would be in operation by 2011.
However, on 19 May 2010 the Court of Appeal overturned the City Council's decision to grant planning permission due to an objection by a local farmer, a Mr Gordon Brown, on the grounds that a full environmental assessment had not been carried out before permission was considered. Eddie Stobart Ltd. expressed disappointment with the ruling and stated that (although they still retained a long-term commitment to Cumbria), in view of contractual obligations, they would now instead have to use facilities elsewhere.
On 17 January 2011, Stobart Air submitted proposals to build a 394,000 sq ft (36,600 m2) Air Freight Distribution Centre on the site. Under the plans, Eddie Stobart would re-locate all its Carlisle depots to the airport, and there would be passenger flights to and from London Southend Airport, operated by Aer Arann, an airline 5%-owned by the Stobart Group through 35 €1 preference shares acquired on 10 November 2010. On 3 August 2012, Stobart Air was given permission by Carlisle City Council to develop the airport under these proposals. These included the raising and re-profiling of the main runway at the airport. The warehousing contracts would deliver the rental income required to help upgrade the airport facilities and allow passenger flights to commence. Aer Arann identified that passenger routes from Carlisle to Dublin and the Stobart-owned London Southend Airport would be sustainable. Andrew Tinkler, Stobart Group chief executive, said: “The decision is extremely positive for the people of Cumbria as it will drive the economy, boost tourism and safeguard over 800 direct and indirect jobs."
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