By Rebecca Radcliffe
Over 5000 people living in Sheffield have signed a petition to stop the redevelopment of what used to be the city’s airport.
Plans were made to dig up the runway, the only remaining part of the airport, and replace it with offices.
Sheffield Councillor, Leigh Bramall speaks to Try Sheffield about the redevelopment options.
“I suspect people are attracted by the fact that an airport used to operate there and that they feel it would be good to have an airport close by.”
The public seem keen for the land to occupy a local airport once again.
“It is also clear that the airport petition was a campaign, run by the FSB and closely supported by the Conservative Party who put it on their regional website. It seems likely therefore that small businesses and Conservative members may make up a proportion of those who signed the petition.”
Business men and people who often travel to work will benefit from having an up and running runway close by.
“From correspondences, many of this latter group feel Sheffield needs its own airport, within the city boundary, for businesses to use to compete with other cities. ”
However it is doubtful that holiday makers and international students will gain any advantage from a newly opened airport.
“It is unlikely that international students would use a revived Sheffield City Airport. Even campaigners accept it would only ever serve the business market, with flights to London and other European hub destinations. General flights will still mean international students are more likely to fly to Manchester or London.”
But if the plans to turn the runway into offices still go ahead, there will also be plenty of benefits for people living in Sheffield.
“It is important that a variety of offices are available in a city to attract and retain occupiers and accommodate them if and when companies choose to move or relocate to the area. This helps companies grow and creates jobs.”
Leigh does not believe that the development of a refurbished airport is the way to go.
“I do not believe an airport at that site is viable. Indeed, a key backer who ran the airport previously and has said he would invest in a new scheme, has acknowledged publicly that the airport wouldn’t make money at first.”
Leigh also thinks that the airport would struggle to make a profit if plans to open the airport again go ahead.
“The council would need to underwrite operations with London City Airport, which took 15 years to make a profit. This is because they say it is very similar to Sheffield City Airport.”
This causes concern as the lack of profit the airport was making, is what made it unsuccessful to begin with.
But Leigh makes it clear that there is very little the council can actually do with regards to the decision made about how the land will be redeveloped.
“The council has no powers to prevent a private land owner developing their own land, and the Enterprise Zone status means they don’t even have to obtain planning permission, only pre-notify the council that a development is to happen.”
He also reveals the council are more than happy to support which ever decision is made.
” We have said we will not stand in the way of any private sector led solution but that we are not in a position to contribute funding for a new airport project.”