South Yorkshire Chambers Celebrate Good News In Doncaster Sheffield Airport Negotiations

22nd March 2024

After nearly two years of hard-fought campaigning and work taking place behind-the-scenes, the fate of Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) is looking brighter than ever.

The basis for this renewed optimism is that, today, City of Doncaster Council have announced that they have passed a significant milestone in their negotiations with the airport’s owners, Peel Group. Namely, they have signed a long-term lease for the site — covering a 125-year period — that will see the airport re-open with huge benefits to the local economy.

Representing a major step forward in the fight to reboot DSA, this welcome development signals that there is at long last some definitive light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, now that a lease has been secured, the council can focus on concluding its ongoing search for a private sector partner to operate the airport. A rigorous procurement exercise is already underway here — with there being a strong market interest — and it should not be too long now before an operator is secured.

With all of that, things are really looking up at the moment and, provided that all continues going according to plan, it’s looking increasingly likely that South Yorkshire will be getting its airport back sometime in the foreseeable future.

Responding to this good news, the Chief Execs for all three regional Chambers of Commerce (those being the respective networks for Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley & Rotherham) issued the following joint statement:

“Today’s announcement will doubtlessly come as a huge relief to those who have been invested in this complicated situation and who have been following all of the latest developments with keen interest. Successful economies need successful airports. As such, when the fate of ours was first called into question 20 months ago, we know that it came as a massive blow for the region and that there was justifiable concern about what losing such a prominent asset would ultimately mean.

“After all, DSA had been serving our communities for over two decades by the time it closed its door, so it was only natural that residents and businesses would feel so passionate about keeping it alive. Yet even then, we could not have predicted just how determined that community would be, with countless groups and individuals from across the political spectrum rallying behind the campaign to save our airport; some of whom were very much in the public eye while others worked tirelessly behind the scenes.

“Today is a victory for all of those activists and supporters, especially the operational colleagues who have been toiling night and day in their offices to get this lease deal over the line. It’s been a real team effort that has shown just what South Yorkshire is capable of when it pulls together in service of a common goal.

“Peel Group must also be commended for working with the region throughout this turbulent period and for returning to the negotiating table month after month, even in the face of some quite difficult conversations. Because of their willingness to do the right thing here, we now have a way forward that is mutually beneficial for all parties concerned. This will include close collaboration on the Gateway East site, which is sure to be a major economic development project that is rife with opportunity.

“Of course, while securing a lease is a significant milestone worth celebrating, it is imperative that we do not rest on our laurels here. Our members have been incredibly vocal about wanting to see DSA reopened and, should that happen, we need to make sure that we are properly maximising its potential. To that end, we would urge all businesses to get behind this and fly local when the day comes, so that our airport can be a true success story. To enable this, it is imperative that the reopened airport, this time around, provides the routes and connectivity coveted by the region’s international traders.

“There has been an encouragingly strong market interest when it comes to the search for a new operator, so it is clear to others that DSA can be profitable. What’s more, a recent impact report indicated that, over the course of three decades, it has the untapped potential to generate £1.56 billion in net economic benefits. With that said, the opportunity before us right now is monumental and we have absolutely got to seize it. So let’s keep up the momentum that has gotten us so far already.”

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