CLOSURE of Sheffield City Airport was being discussed by officials just four years after it had opened – according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Campaigners who battled to save the airport at Tinsley Park, say the minutes, obtained from Sheffield Council which cover a meeting of the airport’s Joint Liaison Committee, are more evidence there was a plan to axe the facility.
A meeting of the committee, which involved representatives from Sheffield Council and airport management, took place on July 30, 2001.
They revealed that while the council was ‘supportive’ of the airport, it was also prepared to ‘work with’ owners Tinsley Park Limited and Peel Airports and was open to ‘consideration of commercial use for all of the airport land’.
At the meeting, it was also revealed the airport’s owners intended to submit an outline planning application for alternative use of the site.
The council committed itself to supporting Peel’s development of Robin Hood Airport at Finningley – and options for closure of Sheffield were discussed if it could not be made financially viable.
But, in a report to a public meeting of Sheffield Council’s cabinet just two days later, Bob Keenan, then executive director of economic and development services at the council, backed ‘maintaining existing arrangements’ and recommended Sheffield City and the new Finningley airport should ‘complement’ each other.
Closure of Sheffield was not mentioned in the cabinet report.
Stewart Dalton, aged 67, of Westfield, one of the campaigners against closure, and who is trying to persuade the European Commission to hold an inquiry, said: “The minutes show that while officers were saying one thing at a cabinet meeting open to the public, they were saying the opposite at the Joint Liaison Committee meetings.”
Other documents from liaison committee meetings in 2001 showed the airport was ‘performing as predicted’ – although each passenger was heavily-subsidised.
Previous documents obtained by Sheffield City Airport Movement campaign group revealed closure was being considered in 2003.
The airport’s owner, which had the land to redevelop for free after closure, was supposed to make reasonable efforts to attract airlines for the first 10 years of operation, but scheduled flights ceased in 2002.
Sheffield Council’s then Lib Dem leader Coun Peter Moore and chief executive John Mothersole, who attended airport Joint Liaison Committee meetings, were unavailable for comment.