AIRPORT ANNIVERSARY - LOOKING BACK
This week saw the first anniversary of the day that Peel announced that they believed the airport was not financially viable. That was not a good day.
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.
I am often asked two questions by my constituents. How did we get here? What can we do to get our airport reopened?
As a Member of Parliament it is my duty to speak without fear or favour. It is my duty to hold to account those who make decisions that impact on my constituents. I believe that I have done so throughout my term since my election in 2019 as the first Conservative MP in Doncaster for 55 years.
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.
Those who had the powers then and now had to listen. They could not just stand by.
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 is headed up by Oliver Coppard who is the elected Mayor for South Yorkshire. On that board sits Ros Jones. She is the elected Mayor of Doncaster who also holds powers devolved to her from Government.
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.
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?
It has also meant that the CAA have decided to remove the control of the airspace from our airport. Had there been CPO proceedings in place (which there aren’t) then that would have constituted grounds to keep the airspace. I told them back in July but they refused to do it. It is only now that the proverbial horse has bolted, they are closing the gate.
The South Yorkshire Mayor could have also set up a Mayoral Development Corporation zone to support the airport. He turned it down flat at the public meeting. He still hasn’t done that to date even though I have asked him to.
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.
I have asked Oliver to tell me the amount and the source of these funds. He has responded but not properly answered the question. I am therefore seeking further clarification.
I can assure everyone that I am firmly committed to securing the reopening of our airport. It is critical to our local and regional economy. Why it was ever allowed to close is a serious concern. This is a question that I will continue to ask the two Mayors to answer.
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 3 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.
However it’s a good thing that Doncaster City Council have now finally started the CPO and published a brochure to potential investors. It’s a step in the right direction.
Let us hope that this time next year we will see an Airport that has reopened. I’m sure there are investors out there. Let’s bring them to Doncaster so they can see how great the airport is. It’s a superb opportunity for any airport business. It’s superbly located and is a jewel in the crown of South Yorkshire.
I’m sure that we will see our airport reopen and go from strength to strength.
So my message to everyone is a simple one. Stay strong. Keep the faith. Let’s Save DSA.