Nick Fletcher has tangled himself in knots with Doncaster Sheffield Airport claims - Jayne Dowle

Just as it looked as if a lifeline was being extended to re-open Doncaster-Sheffield airport a massive political row threatens to ground rescue plans yet again.

Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones, who has long campaigned for the airport to be brought back into use, and Conservative Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher are locked in bitter recrimination.

At a time when local politicians should be pulling together to ensure that the airport has a future, accusations and counter-accusations are flying back and forth. And meanwhile, South Yorkshire aviation, which could bring a much-needed boost to the economy, remains grounded.

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In a magazine-style campaign leaflet sent out to his constituents Mr Fletcher claimed that Doncaster Council was responsible for the closure of Doncaster-Sheffield airport (DSA).

Doncaster Sheffield Airport pictured in 2020.Doncaster Sheffield Airport pictured in 2020.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport pictured in 2020.

“Nick is continuing the campaign to re-open Doncaster Sheffield Airport, challenging the council’s decision to close it. Our airport was a vital part of our local economy. Nick’s working with residents to petition for its return, to create more jobs and local investment.”

Ms Jones is frankly, incandescent. And you can see why. She demands Mr Fletcher must apologise for what she calls a “complete and utter lie”, pointing out that his claim it was “the council’s decision to close” the airport is erroneous.

Mothballing DSA in November 2022 was entirely a move made by the airport owners, Peel Group, Ms Jones reminds the MP. Indeed, as she adds, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the former Secretary of State for Transport, reiterated in her own words that the closure “was ultimately a commercial decision made by the owners of DSA”.

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Following the release of Ms Jones’ indignant statement, Mr Fletcher shared a Facebook post in which he refused to back down from his claim. He said: “I will not tolerate being called a liar.”

Rather than the local council and the regional South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) directly closing the airport as his leaflet suggested, he (kind of) conceded that they were “to blame” for its closure.

However, what he’s saying seems entirely at odds with recent actions taken by Ms Jones and South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard, whom Mr Fletcher now accuses of sharing a ‘green agenda’ that would mitigate against the airport ever being brought back into service: “The two mayors have a green agenda which takes the stance that we have a climate emergency. Forget 2050. They want 2030. Airports do not fit with any radical green agenda.”

This all seems very odd. And a low blow. Green agenda? Sensible politicians accept that carbon emissions threaten the planet, but they also recognise that there is a balance to be struck.

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Ms Jones has campaigned long and hard in favour of the airport. In the past, she has even suggested that Doncaster council covered losses with its own funds until a new buyer was found.

As for Mr Coppard, two weeks ago, South Yorkshire Combined Authority’s (SYCA) board unanimously gave the go-ahead to initial proposals which would see £138m of public money made available to fund reopening.

Announcing the result of the vote on X (formerly Twitter), he described the SYCA vote as a “big and important step on the journey to getting our airport open again, and developing a world-leading sustainable aviation and manufacturing hub at Gateway East”.

All of which begs the question, why would the mayor agree to this if his commitment to a green agenda ruled out a South Yorkshire airport?

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This is not the first time that Mr Fletcher has been at the centre of an airport row. In September last year, Doncaster garage owner Mark Chadwick, a vociferous local pro-DSA campaigner, bitterly accused the MP of trying to take credit for a petition. “Your total indifference to the people in Doncaster that are on the frontline with the campaign to #saveDSA is as bad as the lack of help that is coming from central government.

“You don’t listen to people that politely offer constructive criticism. You run rough-shod over everyone else’s opinion, sticking to your own agenda and actually achieving nothing.”

Could it be that the prospect of a General Election has added fuel to Mr Fletcher’s fire? He famously took Don Valley at the 2019 ‘red wall’ election, becoming the first Tory to hold the seat ever. His majority is slim, just 3,630. Let’s put it bluntly; he needs the popular vote.

Is it the case that he doesn’t want to concede credit for progress to local and regional politicians?

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