Owner Peel Group dropped a bombshell when it said this week that the airport may no longer be commercially viable due to financial pressures brought on by Covid and the departure of Wizz Air.
South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard revealed some people have asked him if the airport can be taken into public ownership, and he said ‘we’re not ruling anything out’ but declared that doing so would be a ‘huge financial risk’.
He pointed to the example of struggling Teesside International Airport, which was previously run by Peel but is now publicly owned. It recently required an extra £20 million injection of taxpayer cash following heavy losses – just one year after a £10m bailout was approved.
Mr Coppard said: “I’ve also been asked if we can buy the airport. We’re not ruling anything out, but the model for that is the approach taken in Tees Valley. All the evidence so far seems to indicate that’s a huge financial risk.
“The best people to run an airport are people who know airports, airlines and aviation. The public sector has invested hugely in the DSA site and the private sector should now step up and match that ambition.”
Mr Coppard revealed on Twitter that since learning the airport’s future was under review he had met with the leaders of Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham councils and with most of the region’s MPs.
‘I want to see DSA thrive, and there is no reason an airport with great facilities and a catchment of millions shouldn’t be successful’
He has also written to Peel to ‘express my disappointment about their lack of ambition for DSA and their failure to communicate their plans sooner’
“While the announcement made by Peel is to ‘review’ the viability of the airport, my worry is that they will seek to shut down the site and then simply sit on the site, demanding planning permission to turn the airport into housing or retail,” he said.
“I want to see DSA thrive, and there is no reason an airport with great facilities and a catchment of millions shouldn’t be successful.
“While Heathrow and Manchester struggle with capacity, regional airports like ours should be able to pick up the slack. Levelling up, if you will.”
Mr Coppard said he would be meeting Peel’s main board on Wednesday and would be asking ‘some hard questions about their approach’.
He also called on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to ‘get a grip on this, and make it clear to Peel they can’t cut and run’.
And he revealed that the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) had been in discussions with Peel about a £20 loan, which would have been on top of the £8m already to the firm.
He said that loan had ‘stalled’ after Peel refused to share the financial information it had requested, though he added that Peel had already declared that loan was not a ‘material factor’ in its decision to review the airport’s viability.
He concluded: “I’ll keep on updating people about developments, but for now we’ll be working to explore any and all solutions, and pressing both Peel and the govt to act in the interests of our community.”