FSB: Sheffield City destruction an insult
The former Sheffield City Airport runway is set to be dug up by the end of the year after the Government agreed a £1.8m loan, according to a recent report in The Star - and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says this would destroy a valuable piece of the local infrastructure that can then never be replaced.
The FSB has long expressed the view, along with many Sheffield MPs and the majority of the business community, that the authorities are at risk of making a big mistake in destroying a vital aviation link of the future.
The region's main airport, Robin Hood Airport, is making massive losses, with passenger numbers dwindling year-by-year, and lower now than when it first opened. In addition, while Robin Hood Airport serves holidaymakers and GA pilots, it does not serve the business community with flights to any European commercial centres. The FSB points out that if Robin Hood airport closes, South Yorkshire will be without a commercial airport and will therefore be at a distinct competitive disadvantage with other city regions.
According to the FSB, several private organisations have expressed an interested in buying and running the airport, which is ideally situated close to the centre of a big conurbation, making it ideal for time-conscious business travellers.
Sheffield City Airport represents an £18 million investment on the part of the taxpayer, which was intended to help regenerate the local economy.
Despite the government's policy to support regionalised aviation, the current owners bought the asset for £1 and will use further public money – starting with the government’s £1.8million – to build a business park on the land. The FSB says the owners' sole interest is to capitalise on their good fortune by building a portfolio of rental property at public expense. They say: "Their free acquisition of this asset has been paid for by the taxpayer whose mistaken belief was that they were buying a city airport. Such corporate opportunism is an insult to the taxpayers who funded it. The FSB is therefore now urgently calling upon all the 5,700 people who signed our petition to write to their local MP and urge them to prevail upon HM Government to withhold any further funding towards the redevelopment of the site of the former Sheffield City Airport (including further destruction of its infrastructure) until an independent public enquiry is held to look into the potential for its future use as a facility for commercial aviation."
The FSB says Sheffield has plenty of alternative sites that are suitable for business development, including 50 acres of Sheffield Business Park Phase 1 that are still undeveloped.
The majority shareholder in the company that presently owns the airport site is Peel Airports, which promised to run Sheffield City Airport alongside Robin Hood Airport. Amongst other promises, they said they would chop the runway in half for general aviation, building a business park on the remainder, creating thousands of jobs. They also pledged to build a heliport, again creating thousands of jobs, on the remainder of the land. The FSB says all of these promises have been broken.