Mayors “seek to muzzle and censor me”, says Doncaster MP

A Doncaster MP has criticised the city and regional mayors as it reaches one year since Doncaster Sheffield Airport was put at risk of closure.
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Thursday, July 13 marked one year since Peel Group, owners of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, launched a strategic review into the airport’s operations which later led to its closure.

Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher marked the anniversary with a post criticising Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones and South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard for their approaches to reopening the site.

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Mr Fletcher has been vocal in his criticisms of the two local authority leaders.

Nick FletcherNick Fletcher
Nick Fletcher

Last year, he called for devolution to be removed from South Yorkshire, labelling it a “disaster”.

Nick Fletcher MP wrote on Thursday: “I thank the public for your support in my efforts to get Doncaster Sheffield Airport reopened. This support has come not just from Doncaster but from the region at large. It has been amazing and that support is unwavering and stands strong to this day.

“As an MP I hold no powers but I have a voice. That voice is strengthened by the public. The airport petition which I circulated and promoted when it had only 224 signatures is now well over 100,000. My voice carried further as a result.

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“The powers that Government have to be able to deal with this issue were devolved to what is now the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.

“This means that when we look to Government to act, we are looking in the wrong place. We should be looking at those with the powers instead.

“From the very start I have campaigned vigorously for those with the powers to resolve this to do so. I mean the two Mayors. They chose not to do so. They asked Government to act instead, conveniently forgetting that Government could not act. The two Mayors chose not to exercise their powers and the airport duly closed. I even asked them to hand their powers back to Government so that they could exercise them.

“I am often asked by the two Mayors to act in a cross-party way. Whenever I can then I do so. I cannot however agree to only say something which they all agree with. That would mean that they will not be criticised.

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“Effectively they seek to muzzle and censor me. I can’t accept those conditions. I will hold to account every stakeholder. The two critical stakeholders are the two Mayors. They need to have their feet held to the fire and I aim to ensure that occurs until and when the airport is reopened and is thriving.

“The failure by the two Mayors to provide financial support to the airport is what caused the airport to close. They turned down a £20million share of the airport. They then didn’t provide a £20million loan when needed. This is all minuted.

“It is good that the Mayor of Doncaster has now started the Compulsory Purchase Order process. However don’t forget that she refused to do so when I asked her in July. Had she done so maybe Peel would have backed down and the airport would still be open?

“In June Oliver announced that he has provided a financial package to the Mayor of Doncaster to enable her to save the airport. This is great news although one has to ask why wasn’t this done before November when the airport was open? He had the exact same powers then but chose not to use them.

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“Doncaster and South Yorkshire deserves to know why this strategic asset was lost. I believe that it could have been easily avoided with the right leadership and commitment.

“When the airport asked for help, why was it not given? When the airport was to be closed, why did the two Mayors not make an offer to acquire it? Why did they do nothing in the first three weeks apart from blame Government?

“It is a fact that the two Mayors are Labour and I am a Conservative. However that makes no odds to me. It is not what motivates me. Saving the airport is what motivates me. Sadly I remain excluded from the centre of events. I would love to be included as I have much to offer.”