Business leaders call for end to 'needless distractions and in-fighting' that could jeopardise re-opening of Doncaster Sheffield Airport

Business leaders from the Doncaster Chamber of Commerce have released a damning statement calling for an end to political bickering and point-scoring over the re-opening of Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

Its chief executive Dan Fell took aim at politicians who have used the campaign to bring the site back into its use, more than a year since its closed, for ‘electioneering’.

The full statement reads: “As progress continues with the negotiations to re-open Doncaster Sheffield Airport, and the chances of a favourable outcome are looking increasingly likely, the local Chamber of Commerce is calling for all parties concerned to show a united front to the outside world, and to focus on delivering the final interventions necessary to successfully get the site back up-and-running, rather than on political point scoring and electioneering.

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"It has been nearly 18 months since the future of DSA was first called into question and, since then, there has been an outpouring of support for it from residents and the region’s business communities alike, who are desperate to see the airport re-opened and maximising its full potential. Indeed, the site’s untapped potential is clear to everybody from the private sector right through to the local authority, political figures, campaign groups and even ordinary residents, all of whom have joined the fight to try and retain this important economic asset.

Doncaster Sheffield AirportDoncaster Sheffield Airport
Doncaster Sheffield Airport

"It’s hardly surprising that people would rally so passionately behind this cause, given that the airport has served our community for upwards of two decades now. In addition to everyone feeling so deeply invested in its survival, it also has a wider strategic value for the region, with a recent impact report finding that, if it were to reopen, it could potentially generate around £1.56bn in net economic benefits (over the course of three decades) and thousands of jobs.

"With all of that said, it is of the utmost importance that the region show a united front now to avoid defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory.

Mr Fell: “After months of uncertainty, plans to get South Yorkshire’s airport re-opened are moving forward at pace and there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel. This is owing to the tireless efforts of many partners and colleagues - of all political dispositions - behind the scenes and should be a cause for celebration.

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“Unfortunately, we are seeing a lot of unwelcome commentary at the moment that, at best, is a needless distraction and, at worst, could potentially jeopardize the future of this hard-fought campaign by spooking potential investors. The negotiations here are necessarily detailed and complex and we need to give those in the thick of it time and space to get it over the line. 24/7 commentary is not going to be conducive to that goal.

“To reiterate, lots of people have contributed to this and it has been a true collaborative effort. For example, national government played a huge role in conferring Investment Zone status to South Yorkshire and the Civil Aviation Authority has been helpful in retaining the airspace over DSA whilst negotiations take place. Meanwhile, local and regional government has poured considerable resource into the campaign and demonstrated great leadership and tenacity.

“Pulling together to get a favourable deal done should be our focus right now, rather than needless mudslinging in public forums. Business doesn’t care which political party gets to cut a ribbon at the airport reopening ceremony, as long as the universally shared aim of bringing international connectivity back to South Yorkshire is achieved.

“Similarly, pitting one transport scheme for South Yorkshire against another, as some have been seeking to do, is simply reductive. The region needs both an airport and a mass transit system for its core city and those two things should not be seen as mutually exclusive. In the fullness of time, it is true that we will need to establish a better plan for increasing the overall quantum of investment into South Yorkshire’s infrastructure and it will be reasonable to ask why other regions - such as West Yorkshire - seem to be more successful than us at leveraging in infrastructure investment. However, that conversation must be decoupled from the immediate need to get our airport re-opened.

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Politicians need to hold each other to account; the business community accepts and understands this. Yet there are ways of achieving this without resorting to megaphone diplomacy and without jeopardising projects that are essential to South Yorkshire’s future growth. Airing political differences in public diminishes investor confidence and achieves very little, even in an election year. With that in mind, we are urging our political friends and partners to, please, tone it down and focus on telling the outside world what a great place South Yorkshire can be to do business.

“Finally, to any organisations who are involved in the plans to re-open DSA - including carriers who may wish to be based there in the future - we say this: ‘South Yorkshire’s business communities are grateful for your keen interest in our region and are standing by ready to welcome you to our networks. Here, you will find a private sector that is eager to partner with you so that, together, we can grow the airport, fulfil its latent potential, and help you achieve your aims as well. We look forward to working with you to make the airport a resounding success.”