Leaders are right to flex their muscles to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport - Greg Wright
The first time I glimpsed Doncaster Sheffield Airport, I was overwhelmed by the site’s scale and potential. This, I believed, was the model airport of the future, surrounded by land which once formed part of Yorkshire’s industrial heartland and was now ripe for development. At the very least, it had the scope for dramatically improving rail and air connections between our county and the rest of the world.
In common with business leaders across Yorkshire, I was surprised and dismayed by the airport’s closure last month after the owners, Peel Group, said it was simply no longer viable. The howls of protest have not died down. But anger has been turned into constructive action which could yield results, provided we are all willing to be patient.
Ros Jones, the Mayor of Doncaster, is determined to see the airport brought back to life and is rolling her sleeves up to make this dream become a reality. Doncaster Chamber has also vowed to continue with its “valiant” efforts to revive Doncaster Sheffield, which shows there is corporate muscle ready to be flexed on the airport’s behalf.
In a statement on Twitter, Ms Jones, said: “At our full council meeting in November, councillors voted unanimously to pursue all legal routes to retain aviation operations at Doncaster Sheffield. Officers have continued to progress the necessary preparatory steps for the next stages of the compulsory purchase order (CPO).”
According to Ms Jones, this process includes the appointment of expert land referencing and valuation services, with the preliminary statutory processes due to start early in the New Year. A further report to set out the next steps is due to be published in early 2023. It will provide essential reading for everyone who cares about South Yorkshire’s future.
Ms Jones has also written to the Civil Aviation Authority asking them to ensure the airport’s airspace can be protected as progress is made towards a CPO.
She added: “Market interest remains strong with a number of parties remaining interested in acquiring either directly from Peel or in partnership following CPO.
“But we need to be realistic, in that any potential investor may be more inclined to wait until we CPO the site, given the airport is now closed and the cost and timescales involved in getting it back into operation may well discourage a direct purchase from Peel.”
South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard has also highlighted the airport’s importance as a strategic asset for the region. This handsome, imposing complex must not suffer from neglect. A CPO cannot be secured overnight so the airport’s supporters must be prepared to play a long game.
In the meantime, perhaps there is a case for setting up a taskforce of the great and the good, who can hammer out a profitable vision for Doncaster Sheffield? South Yorkshire business people never regard any setback as fatal. By pooling resources, there is a chance their dreams of reviving Doncaster Sheffield could take flight in 2023.
Greg Wright is the deputy business editor of The Yorkshire Post