Interview: ‘Major step forward’ in case to reopen Doncaster Sheffield Airport announced

A new proposal to be discussed next week is a “major step forward” to finally reopen the Doncaster Sheffield Airport, the South Yorkshire mayor has said.
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At next week’s South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) board meeting (February 13), members will hear about a proposal that may be the beginning of the end of the 15-month ordeal around the DSA.

It was revealed that the MCA awarded City of Doncaster Council (CDC) £3.1million “to prepare an outline business case (OBC) ” to take control of the airport through a leasing arrangement and re-establish operations under a new business model.

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Now, that business case has been published detailing CDC’s vision for South Yorkshire Airport City.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport. Credit: Marie CaleyDoncaster Sheffield Airport. Credit: Marie Caley
Doncaster Sheffield Airport. Credit: Marie Caley

The report published by SYMCA ahead of next week’s meeting said: “The OBC concludes that the reopening of the airport and the South Yorkshire Airport City concept provides the best opportunity to secure economic growth and wellbeing.”

The report added: “The proposal detailed within the business case would allow for a 10-year plan to drive economic growth in Doncaster.”

The report said the outline business case proposed that these steps could also provide the catalyst for economic development at Gateway East, with the airport anchoring a sector-specific focus on aviation-related advanced manufacturing, advanced engineering and the growing jet-zero and decarbonisation industries.

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It was also announced that City of Doncaster Council will have £138 million made available by the MCA via Gainshare to support economic ambitions including as outlined in the Doncaster Place Investment Plan which includes South Yorkshire Airport City and Gateway East.

In addition, “elements of activity could also be supported from other MCA funding that has been set aside to support this project”.

When asked about whether this development could be the beginning of a process which ends with the airport reopening, Oliver Coppard, the South Yorkshire Mayor, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he certainly hoped so.

He said: “This is a major step towards reopening the airport because this is about us taking the funding from the MCA to give the firepower to Doncaster to agree those deals with Peel (the owners of the airport) and the private sector operator we want to bring in order to run and operate DSA.

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“But this is also about our wider ambitions for the whole of South Yorkshire, for Doncaster in particular, because the airport is at the heart of our South Yorkshire Airport City – a sustainable aviation hub, an advanced manufacturing hub, which is something that South Yorkshire is world leading at.”

In terms of money, Mr Coppard added there was going to be costs required for “reinstatement costs”, they are essentially about getting the airport back to a fit state so they can use it as a thriving airport.

There is also going to be an “ongoing cost” around the lease arrangement with Peel – which had said from the beginning it does not want to sell the site, Mr Coppard added – to reopen the airport and keep it flying going forward.

He said: “This a long-term plan, a 10-year plan for the future of the whole of Gateway East and Doncaster Sheffield Airport.”

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Mr Coppard added it would not be a 10-year process to reopen the airport but it’s a 10-year plan to “make sure the whole of the South Yorkshire Airport City project is thriving and sustainable” and it provides jobs and opportunities for the region.

He said: “This is about getting the best possible deal for taxpayers, for us as a community using our money appropriately.”

He added using Gainshare was the appropriate funding stream but using that amount “takes time, takes governance and takes a process and that’s what we’ve been engaged in” to ensure the interest of the taxpayers “were put in the forefront” of the plan.

This comes only days after Mark Harper, the transport secretary, hit back over claims he had blocked the South Yorkshire Mayor from using £30m to reopen the Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

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In a letter sent to Mr Harper, Mr Coppard urged him to consider his proposal to reallocate the money – the said £30m – from the Gateway East Rail project.

In that letter, Mr Coppard accused Mr Harper of previously turning down “those requests for greater flexibility to be applied to that money”, and claimed the funding was at risk of being unspent within City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS) timescales.

In his response, Mr Harper told Mr Coppard that the government was supporting South Yorkshire through “Gainshare funding, making £900m available through £30m per year over 30 years”.

He said: “This is exactly the funding which the Mayor of Teesside used to support Teesside Airport and is consequently very likely to be suitable for your needs.

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“I am sure we can both agree that it is excellent news that there is clear Government grant available that you can choose to support Doncaster Sheffield Airport.”

The airport closed in 2022 after owner Peel Group said it was financially unviable.

Before its closure, DSA supported an estimated 2,700 jobs in the regional economy and contributed an annual net GVA of £108.4m in the region.

Members are recommended to give the project the green light to go to the next stage which will see a full business case drawn up.

This will include all the information needed to support a decision to award a contract and commit actual funding.

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