The owner of Carlisle airport claims the £16.9 million sale of a giant distribution centre on the site will be the “catalyst” for future development.

Stobart Group wants to use joint venture regional carrier Stobart Air to start flights to Cumbria from sister airport Southend as well as Belfast and Dublin.

The company is working with the Civil Aviation Authority on runway and terminal safety designs in advance of refurbishment.

The distribution centre is the first phase of development of Carlisle airport. The site occupies 19 of the 460 acres covered by the airport, which was acquired by Stobart in 2009 for £9.9 million.

The company said: “The group believes the development and sale of the first distribution centre will be the catalyst for future development at Carlisle airport, which will attract inward investment and create sustainable jobs for the Cumbria area.”

Chief executive, Andrew Tinkler, said: “The transaction is in line with our strategy of realising value from mature assets and creating value for shareholders.

“We believe that this development will attract further inward investment at Carlisle airport, securing and creating jobs in the area by offering cheaper logistics solutions at a location close to the Lake District and the border with Scotland.

“There is also the opportunity for Stobart Air to create passenger air services, attracting business customers who require fast, effective transport links and giving tourists more efficient access to Cumbria and south west Scotland.”