Future still up in the air

POLITICAL leaders have renewed hope for Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s future after gaining reassurances from owners Peel that they will “will look at all options” to keep the airport open.

Peel had been tight-lipped since announcing a review of the facility last month but after meeting the airport’s owners Doncaster mayor Ros Jones and South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard said progress was being made in negotiations.

“They would be willing to consider a range of options that could result in the maintenance of aviation operations on the site,” said the two mayors in a statement.

“There is a mutual recognition that the airport and wider Gateway East site are inextricably linked, and all viable options are still on the table for discussion, including the sale to another owner/operator.”

Peel confirmed they were going to consider the “feasibility” of maintaining an airport in the region after blaming several factors for its lack of prosperity, including Covid-19 and the withdrawal of airline Wizz Air.

A public meeting was held at Doncaster Rover’s Eco Power stadium by Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher and Mr Coppard last Thursday to gather public views and discuss the best way of keeping the airport open.

Mr Coppard called for the Government to step in, while transport minister Grant Shapps urged Mr Coppard to buy the airport on behalf of South Yorkshire Combined Authority — prompting Doncaster Chamber to urge an end to “political sparring” over the issue.

Efforts to save the airport were being “hindered by political squabbling and politicians playing unhelpful blame games”, said the Chamber, adding that it was calling for political leaders, MPs and councillors to “unite under a common goal”.

Chief executive Dan Fell said: “The clock is ticking and too much effort is going into politics instead of finding solutions.”

“There are numerous talented and committed people trying to pull together to resolve this issue via organised working groups or other informal structures; politicians should be supporting them and not turning them into political footballs.”

The two mayors added: “Each of the options will now be further investigated within the extremely tight consultation period Peel has set for its strategic review, with an acknowledgement that this may need to be extended.

“The urgency of this work cannot be underestimated and will be conducted at pace and commitment by Doncaster Council and SYMCA.

“We have mobilised a number of groups including a business advisory board and our regional MPs.

“We are now working closely with the Department for Transport and have jointly commissioned an economic impact assessment alongside our private sector partners to inform the best possible outcome for Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Doncaster and South Yorkshire.

“The region is also working with the UK government as we look for support with this nationally significant airport.”

Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford said the government could not step in directly, putting the ball firmly in Mr Coppard’s court.

But Mr Coppard hit back: “I’m not sure if Alexander simply doesn't understand devolution or is wilfully choosing to misrepresent how devolution works.

“The idea that the government has given me some sort of power and as a result they can't intervene is frankly a little short of bizarre.”

Mr Coppard said he had spoken to Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher and ministers about the best way forward.

A petition calling for the airport to be saved can be found at https://www.change.org/p/save-doncaster-sheffield-airport-savedoncasterairport.