Plans to expand and develop Carlisle Airport are in doubt again following a top judge's decision to allow a farmer to challenge them.

The plans, by the Stobart group, for a freight and storage facility are now back on the drawing board.

Mr Justice Collins, one of Britain's most experienced planning judges, has allowed Irthington farmer Thomas Brown's challenge to them and quashed the most recent planning permission for a new freight storage and distribution facility at the airport.

The judge allowed Mr Brown's claim on a single issue. He agreed that planners had not properly considered the viability of the plans presented to them.

Mr Justice Collins said that the decision allowing planning consent could only be justified if the planning committee was properly entitled to conclude that there was a reasonable prospect of achieving commercial use of the airport.

He added that a key issue involving a subsidy was “not properly dealt with” by the planning committee.

"Since anything which went to show that a commercial operation would not be likely to be feasible, even for a shorter period than forecast might have tipped the balance, that failure becomes more important. “This was such a border line decision that any material defect is of greater importance than it might have been otherwise.”

This was just the latest round of a legal battle going back years.

The last hearing was heard in London last month and came more than three years after Mr Brown won a ruling from London's Court of Appeal quashing the Council's previous grant of planning permission.

In February 2013 the Council granted a fresh permission for a freight distribution centre and the raising and re-profiling of the runway.

What next for Carlisle Airport? Credit: ITV News

The permission was made subject to an obligation on Stobart Air to keep the airport open and the runway maintained unless it could be shown that the airport is no longer economically viable.

On the question of legal costs, which are expected to be high, the Judge said that the parties were seeking to agree the issue of legal costs. He gave them until 27 March to put any submissions on that to him in writing.

It is not yet known if the decision will be appealed.