BARNSLEY Council leader Sir Steve Houghton has backed calls to save the county’s only airport from closure - after its owner said it may no longer be commercially viable due to financial pressures brought on by the pandemic.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport - owned by Peel Group - could close if a six-week ‘strategic review’ concludes it is not cost-effective, which would result in the loss of 800 jobs.
Leaders - including South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard - have joined forces in an attempt to save the airport, and called on the government to step in.
Sir Steve said: “This is crucial to South Yorkshire’s economy - it supports thousands of jobs, attracts inward investment, supports trade, and connects us internationally.
“The aviation industry has suffered in recent years due to the changes brought about by Brexit and the continuing impact of Covid-19.
“Following recent announcements from South Yorkshire’s bus companies and the cancellation of rail services to both Leeds and Manchester, the government must now work with us to save our region’s airport.”
Former mayor Dan Jarvis, who is also MP for Barnsley Central, blasted the government’s so-called ‘levelling up’ claims - which promised more cash to bring northern areas in line with their southern counterparts - and said ministers have done the opposite by continually failing to support the region.
Dan proposed a rail link into the airport but ministers rejecting the scheme.
He added: “We put forward detailed and credible proposals for enhanced rail connectivity - which the government did not support.
“We applied for a freeport-style site for businesses as well, which they also did not support.
“Both proposals would have significantly enhanced the commercial viability of airport and the surrounding site.
“This is the reality of the government’s failed levelling up agenda.”
Handling more than 1.2 million passengers per year before the pandemic, the commercial airport is one of just two in Yorkshire alongside Leeds Bradford.
However, the knock-on impact of Covid-19 - and the recent departure of Wizz Air, which used the airport as one of its bases - have cast doubt on is future.
Calls for the venue to be brought into public ownership have been made, but Mr Coppard labelled the proposition a ‘huge financial risk’.
“We’re not ruling anything out, but the best people to run an airport are people who know airports, airlines and aviation,” he said.