Oliver Coppard's term was cut short by constitutional change. Credit: SYMCA

Leaders back Doncaster Sheffield Airport plan

Following a £3.1m package from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, political figures have united in their support for the compulsory purchase of the asset as a “last resort”.

Billed at one time as Robin Hood Airport by its owner Peel Airports, the facility was closed in November 2022, after operating for 17 years.

Last week, SYMCA approved a £3.1m financial package to support Doncaster Council with preparations of a compulsory purchase order, SYMCA also agreed future funding for Doncaster’s Place Plan, including the potential purchase of the airport.

Work will continue to be progressed through the summer, both negotiations on a potential lease and the legal preparations for a CPO will continue.

The airport is seen as a critical infrastructure asset for South Yorkshire. Although privately operated by Peel, the development of the former RAF Finningley base into a commercial airport took considerable public backing as well, most notably in highways: the first section of a £56m link road opened in 2016.

In recent months, Doncaster Council has been exploring its options, with the CPO request being decided on in April. The local authority has also successfully sought to place planning restrictions on the use of the site.

With SYMCA’s backing now confirmed, a statement was issued by Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones, Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard and Doncaster’s three MPs, reading:

“In our previous update we highlighted the work on the Article 4 direction to protect the site with a planning measure and also the importance of retaining our airspace permissions. Whilst this work reaches its natural conclusion, we continue to engage with a number of parties including the Civil Aviation Authority (Airspace) and Peel (on a potential lease) to ensure we receive the best outcome for our residents and businesses.

“Peel continues to be unwilling sellers; they have not gone to the open market or made any effort to sell the airport as an operational airport and working business. As elected officials of Doncaster we fully support the work to save our airport from City of Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.

“This week, we were pleased to agree a package of financial support – supported by leaders across the region in SYMCA – for the CPO legal process.

“We fully understand that the CPO is a last resort and hope to see progress in relation to the potential long-term lease of the airport, but we are resolute in our determination to see our airport reopen.”

Peel has thus far declined to comment on the possibility of a CPO process.

The group sold Durham Tees Valley Airport (now Teesside International) to the Tees Valley Combined Authority for £40m in 2018. This year, GMI was appointed to deliver the first part of a £200m business park on the airport’s south side.

Peel had announced a strategic review of Doncaster Sheffield in summer 2022, saying that the asset had never achieved the critical mass required to become profitable.

The group said it had invested £250m over 17 years, and up to the Covid shutdown, had only taken £1m in grant support.

Robert Hough, chairman of Peel Airports, said on the strategic review’s completion that “the intractable problem remains
the fundamental and insufficient lack of current or prospective revenue streams, together with the airport’s high operating costs”.

In an update posted online, Doncaster Council moved to quell gossip about goings-on at the site. It said “there continues to be some misinformation being shared on social media in relation to stripping of the airport. The units within the terminal building (shops, restaurants, bar etc) had fittings which were the property of the tenants.

“Those tenants have now removed those fixtures and fittings, which is perfectly normal. Certain fittings within the terminal were also leased from external companies and have been returned”.

The council continued: “There will of course be costs to reinstate airport operations. All these costs will form part of our business plan which is currently being prepared. We have potential buyers and operators who are aware of what would be required and are fully prepared to work with us to make our airport a success.”

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Doncaster Council need to open there 👀.

By Kevin wilson

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