COMMENT by David Walsh: What can be done about this damaging antagonism?

Is Doncaster the new Sheffield?

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 3:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 3:41 pm
Sir David Higgins. Portraits. HS2 Ltd.

It’s got a new link road to a fast-growing airport set to bring £1.7billion of investment and create 20,000 jobs and 5,000 homes.

Serious numbers from some impressive assets.

Business editor David Walsh

The feeling from Monday’s official launch was of the public and private sectors working well together. Whatever differences Doncaster Council may have had with Peel, Verdion or Harworth, they were resolved in private, presumably because they all stood to benefit.

If only it were the same story across Sheffield City Region.

Last week, Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, gave a speech which name-checked every station along the route - except Meadowhall. This was viewed as a rebuke to the region, which is at loggerheads over where the stop should be.

Many want it in the city centre where it will provide most benefit. Most people ‘get’ that successful cities create successful city regions.

Business editor David Walsh

On the same day, HS2 published a report called ‘Changing Britain’ with minimum job numbers set to be ‘supported’ by each stop. The figure for Manchester is 30,000, Leeds is 13,000 and Meadowhall – just 4,000.

HS2’s own figures show a station in Sheffield city centre would support 9,700 jobs. But Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster won’t back it.

David Blunkett bemoaned this antagonism, first witnessed in the 1970s, in a recent interview - and contrasted it with Manchester where it is accepted the city is key to driving economic growth across the region.

Perhaps an elected metro mayor - coming in May 2017 - can unify the region.

It will certainly be their most important and difficult job.