In light of the fast-developing Advanced Manufacturing Park, the associated high-tech businesses along the Sheffield / Rotherham border and the newly-announced Local Enterprise Zone, the FSB believes that further urgent consideration be given to the potential for the future of commercial aviation in the city.
The former Sheffield City Airport was built to emulate the highly successful London City Airport which is presently handling nearly three million passengers a year. Sheffield City Airport was located only four miles from the centre of Sheffield and three miles from Rotherham. These two communities have a combined population of nearly one million and within a sixty minute drive the population exceeds nine million.
When it first opened, an independent report into the operation of Sheffield City Airport concluded that it would assist in achieving the vision of a step change in the performance of the sub-region economy, help attract and nurture companies in a number of high technology, high skills and high value-added target growth areas and assist the area in attracting inward investment.
We continue to believe that a revived Sheffield City Airport could and would assist the attraction of high technology manufacturing, advanced producer services, environmental services, bio-sciences, business and financial services, cultural and creative industries. One of the features that unites these target growth sectors is that they all rely on international links with the major European centres of commerce and technology in order to reach customers, suppliers and partners. In the past Sheffield City Airport facilitated daily shuttle services to European capitals: services which were demonstrably viable in commercial terms.
Since then, commercial aviation in the region has switched to the Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield. This has established a growing and successful programme of leisure and tourism flights to holiday destinations and deserves the full support of the city region. However, it is not suitably placed to provide the fast-turnaround easy-access short-haul flights to serve the business travel requirements of the Advanced Manufacturing Park, the M1 Strategic Economic Zone and the Sheffield / Rotherham conurbation. The City Region is therefore in great need of a business aviation facility to supplement the Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, to which we remain committed as a provider of international leisure tourism-based flights to holiday destinations around the world.
The FSB remains convinced that the need for a city airport in Sheffield is greater now than when the Sheffield City Airport first opened. Its closure has removed an air travel facility which has an increasingly vital role to play in the development of the high-tech business community. We perceive that two airports within the Sheffield City Region, each with its own commercial and operational focus, can jointly meet the economic and social needs of the travelling public.
The former Sheffield City Airport is about to be ‘redeveloped’ and its runway destroyed. Once this happens, all hope of a facility in Sheffield for reaching the major European centres, giving access to the key customers, suppliers and partners of western Europe, will be lost. We, the undersigned, therefore call upon Sheffield City Council to urgently ensure that any redevelopment of the site of the former Sheffield City Airport (including further destruction of its infrastructure) is proscribed until an independent public enquiry is held to look into the potential for its future use as a facility for commercial aviation.