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ROW OVER PRESCOTT 'U-TURN' ON AIRPORT

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Deputy prime minister John Prescott has sparked a row by trying to prevent two property groups building a new regio...
Deputy prime minister John Prescott has sparked a row by trying to prevent two property groups building a new regional airport that could create 5,000 jobs, according to the Financial Mail on Sunday (p44).

The newspaper claims that the companies, MEPC and Peel Holdings, were about to sign a deal to buy the former Finningley RAF base near Doncaster, close to a rival airport in Mr Prescott's Hull East constituency. A business park was also planned for the 1,000 acre Finningley site, which has Britain's longest runway and can accomodate the world's biggest passenger and freight aircraft.

Financial Mail on Sunday said that last month junior defence minister John Spellar wrote to a group of Doncaster MPs saying the government supported the scheme. But sources say Mr Prescott has orchestrated a government U-turn, ordering the ministry of defence to halt the sale after the plans were attacked by Humberside International Airport.

Humberside International Airport is owned by four Labour-controlled councils, who want to sell an 81% stake to a private operator in an attempt to raise cash for expansion. HIA's chief executive Richard Jenner wrote to the department of environment, transport and the regions to complain about the Finningley proposals.

He told Financial Mail: 'I said that the plans were inadvisable and that there was no demand for another regional airport less than 40 minutes' drive away'. According to the newspaper Mr Jenner has since received assurances in a letter from DETR policy adviser Mike Porter that confirms the department has intervened in the sale and saying 'It would appear that there was a somewhat misleading interpretation put on the letter from John Spellar to local MPs'.
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