Doncaster Sheffield Airport closure: South Yorkshire’s political leaders will ‘find private sector operator’ if owners don’t work with them

Political leaders in South Yorkshire have called on Doncaster Sheffield Airport owners Peel Group to do more in working with them to stop the closure or they’ll find ‘another private operator’.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 15th July 2022, 3:40 pm

In a letter set out by South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard and signed by leaders of Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley councils, it says that Peel’s engagement with political leaders has been ‘disappointing’.

Peel announced on July 13 that they were considering closing the airport due to it not being financially viable.

The leaders say the combined authority has invested millions of pounds into the airport and surrounding projects in the pipeline – like GatewayEast and Plaza – are at risk of ever materialising.

Oliver Coppard, South Yorkshire’s Mayor, Councillor Sir Steve Houghton CBE, Leader of Barnsley Council, Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, Councillor Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council, Councillor Terry Fox, Leader of Sheffield City Council.

Leaders, MPs and council officials held a meeting to discuss the next steps and are set to meet Peel bosses in the near future.

The statement in full:

“Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) is crucial to South Yorkshire’s economy. It supports thousands of jobs, attracts inward investment, supports trade, and connects South Yorkshire internationally.

“The aviation industry has suffered in recent years due to the changes brought about by Brexit and the continuing impact of Covid-19. However, working with the owners of the site, operators, and government, we are committed to not only finding a means to save DSA but to establish it as a thriving airport at the forefront of South Yorkshire’s future.

The Doncaster Free Press and The Star are fully behind a campaign to stop the closure of the airport.

“To do that, we need the airport’s owners – Peel Group – to work with us, to realise the evident potential of a facility with a passenger catchment of millions.

“To date, the Mayoral Combined Authority, the Local Enterprise Partnership and our local authorities have invested millions in the airport and the surrounding Gateway East Development, and we have been working with the government to further develop the airport’s rail connectivity.

“As well as loans totalling £8m, we have been in discussions about a further £20m loan to support the continued development of DSA. We are clear in our ambition about aviation’s place in our region. The closure of the airport would also risk limiting the potential for investment and development at GatewayEast.

“Within that context, Peel’s approach to engagement with our region’s political leadership has been disappointing.

“We now need them to both match our level of ambition for the site and engage with us to bring about the boost in passenger numbers we all want to see. We will be speaking directly to the Group’s Board and senior leadership team as a matter of urgency and we are committed to working with them to ensure the future of DSA, or finding an alternative private sector operator who can unlock its potential.

“There is also a role for Government. Following recent announcements from South Yorkshire’s bus companies, and the cancellation of rail services to both Leeds and Manchester, the government must now work with us to save our region’s airport.

“If this government is serious about levelling up and committed to the promises made, both to the communities of South Yorkshire and the whole of the UK, now is their opportunity to demonstrate that commitment.

“DSA features in the government’s Flightpath to the Future plan, in which they commit their support to regional airports.

“In their own words, ‘Ensuring this network is supported is key to achieving the positive economic outcomes the Government is determined to deliver for the whole of the UK.’

“We wholeheartedly agree and want to work with them to deliver on that vision that we work every day to deliver; a prosperous South Yorkshire at the heart of a global Great Britain.”