Campaigners force Sheffield airport debate

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

A PETITION supporting the possible reopening of Sheffield City Airport has reached more than 5,000 signatures - meaning the council will be forced to debate the issue at a meeting.

The petition, organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, was due to be handed over at the Town Hall today (Thursday).

Campaigners want an inquiry to see whether the airport could be viable if reopened, and two private groups are interested in buying the site from owner Sheffield Business Park to revive services.

The petition currently stands at 5,250 signatures, which is sufficient to force a council debate.

Gordon Millward, regional chairman of the federation, said he was ‘delighted’ with the support for the campaign.

“We will be reminding the council that more people supported the airport campaign than voted for any individual councillor when they were elected,” he said.

“That is a measure of the strength of feeling of the people of Sheffield about the future of the airport.

“Sheffield is a city of worldwide renown for its high technology manufacturing and advanced producer services. It also has a developing reputation in the fields of environmental services, bio-sciences, business and financial services and creative industries.

“But to exploit these strengths to the full the city needs to provide an infrastructure for international travel and communications that matches the expertise of the manufacturers and service providers.”

Mr Millward added: “There are private sector bidders who are interested in acquiring the airport and operating it as a commercial facility for aviation.

“We believe that their commitment to the city region deserves an expression of strong support from a council which has remained stubbornly seated on the fence.

“This is not an acceptable response from a council elected to further the interests of the community.”

The airport was closed in 2008, but the federation wants to halt any development until an inquiry is held into its future use.

Campaigners suffered a blow last December when Sheffield Council said it had ‘no grounds or enforceable powers’ to stop redevelopment of the runway as a business park.

Residents in Treeton and Catcliffe, at the other end of the runway, are also concerned about attempts to reopen the facility.

Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for business and development, said at the time: “The council is not in a position to determine the future of the former Sheffield City Airport site.

“It belongs to Sheffield Business Park and the check-in building was converted to offices years ago.

“The council has no grounds whatsoever, or indeed enforceable powers, to inhibit or delay redevelopment.

“It is also important to note that the former airport land is now within an Enterprise Zone and has the potential to create up to 3,000 jobs in the city.”

The federation believes the airport would ‘attract inward investment’ and improve Sheffield’s ‘connectivity to global markets’, and has been supported in its stance by Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.

Visit www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/sheffieldcityairport to sign the petition.