Graphic: New owners of Norwich International Airport will not scrap controversial travel tax

Andrew Bell, chief executive at Norwich International Airport. Photo: Bill Smith

Andrew Bell, chief executive at Norwich International Airport. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

A self-made billionaire has taken over Norwich International Airport with a pledge to accelerate growth by expanding its flight network.

The story of Norwich Airport

The story of Norwich Airport - Credit: Archant

Sir Peter Rigby, of The Rigby Group, has secured an 81pc share of the business from the previous owners Omniport in a deal that will see both Norfolk Country Council and Norwich City Council keep hold of their stake in the transport hub.

The facility will now be managed by Rigby Group's airport division Regional & City Airports (RCA), which also owns and operates Coventry and Exeter Airports.

But hopes that new ownership might spell the end of the controversial travel tax have been dashed after Sir Peter said the £10 charge on flights remained a crucial component for making the business profitable.

Sir Peter, chairman and chief Executive of the Rigby Group said: 'We have continually reiterated our belief in the importance of regional airports to local and regional communities and their economies. We are intent on developing our aviation business within the Rigby Group, and have made another significant acquisition here. I am delighted to welcome Norwich's staff to a workforce that now safeguards approximately 650 aviation jobs, and look forward to working with them as we plot out a secure, sustainable and positive future for the facility.'

Andrew Bell, who will stay in his position as chief executive of Norwich International Airport, said: 'This is a significant and very positive day for the Airport. As a highly respected and stable organisation, Rigby Group's involvement will enable us to build on the many achievements of recent years, safeguarding the future of the business and providing us with a platform from which to build an even more prosperous future for the Airport itself and the region.'

George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'I've had a meeting with Sir Peter today and liked what I saw and heard. I am confident that he shares our aims and ambitions for the airport in particular and Norfolk and Norwich in general. I are happy to confirm that Norfolk's shareholding in the airport remain unaffected and we are deeply committed and enthusiastic about working together.'

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Councillor Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'This is excellent news both for the airport and the city. One of the key elements of our City Deal to bring investment and growth to Norwich is the aviation cluster based around Norwich International Airport and I look forward to working with the Rigby Group with these ambitions in mind.'

• For further coverage, pick up a copy of tomorrow's Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News.