Bumpy ride again over city airport

DEVELOPERS of the site of the former Sheffield City Airport have run into fresh turbulence - three years after it closed.

They are asking the council next week for greater flexibility in the planning agreement that allows them to dig up the runway to make way for a business park in recognition of the difficult financial climate.

The move has prompted new protests on the basis that a city the size of Sheffield should have it own airport.

And it coincided with a warning to the council from Timothy Kirkhope, Euro-MP for Yorkshire, that it should not allow the runway to be ripped up until the European Commission has responded to a petition to halt the loss of the airport on the grounds that £3m of European cash was given for new roads.

“There are lots of people all over Europe who I think would be interested in buying the airport,” said Mr Kirkhope. “London City Airport was the same type of venture and has become a success - Sheffield could still be.”

The airport opened at Tinsley in 1997 but the last scheduled flights were in 2002 and it closed in 2008, with owners Peel, who now operate Robin Hood Airport, saying they could not attract enough commercial flights.

Under terms of the contract between the original airport company and Sheffield Development Corporation, the site owners could have the land for £1 if it did not make any money after 10 years. An independent review commissioned by the council in 2005 found the airport was not financially viable due to its short runway.

Council permission was granted four years ago for part of the site to be used as a business park, and now the developers want council permission to change some of the planning conditions that stipulate a timetable for infrastructure improvements and payments towards better roads and bus services.

City planners will advise councillors on Monday to agree so that the business park remains viable. The question of the closure of the airport has already been resolved, they say.

But most of the 26 letters of objection, along with a 73-name petition, want to keep the door open. They say a city airport is needed for the sake of the local economy and say the business park could be built elsewhere.

“Why does the council of the fourth largest city in the country kowtow to property developers?” asks one protester.

A council spokeswoman said: “We all regret that Sheffield City Airport was not viable but it was not created by, nor was it operated, by Sheffield City Council.”