Steel boss calls for airport to be saved

ONE of Sheffield’s leading businessmen has weighed into a row over the Sheffield City Airport site which could be ploughed up to make way for a business park.

Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook Holdings which runs steel castings plants in Sheffield and Leeds, criticised the scheme and said other regional airports did not meet Sheffield’s needs.

Mr Cook, a prominent Tory supporter who called on David Cameron to scrap the Labour government’s £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, has long been a supporter of the airport.

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Last month Sheffield Council planners gave new permission to a scheme, brought forward by the site’s owners Peel Holdings and Sheffield Business Park Ltd, which would see the runway dug up to make way for business units.

Mr Cook said yesterday that the closure of Sheffield airport in 2008 was a “travesty” and added: “To dig up its runway would be an act of vandalism of Luddite proportions.

“Throughout Europe and the USA, towns and cities of Sheffield’s size, and much smaller, have their own municipal airport. This is even the case when they enjoy fast and easy access to a major international airport. A decent municipal airport is an essential component of city status, just as should be the bus and railway stations.

“In this era of low cost flights to holiday destinations, when direct air travel to many European business cities from northern UK airports has become increasingly difficult, the importance to Sheffield of a municipal airport is growing.

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“This is accentuated further when the atrocious communications with the north’s major international airport, Manchester, are taken into account.

“East Midlands and Leeds are small, with few useful business routes. Birmingham is too far away. Robin Hood is a poor joke, and the Sheffield ‘elders’ who thought it would suffice should have known better.

“Sheffield airport is never likely to make a lot of money, but that is not its primary purpose. Its justification is as a major civic facility and gateway for business traffic.”

The airport closed after it was deemed unviable, partly due to the restricted size of aircraft able to use the runway.