A TOP Sheffield businessman has slammed development of the old City Airport runway as ‘an act of vandalism of Luddite proportions’.
Andrew Cook, chairman of steel firm William Cook holdings and a leading donor to Prime Minister David Cameron, has spoken out after plans were approved last week.
He said: “Throughout Europe and the USA, towns and cities of Sheffield’s size, and much smaller, have their own municipal airport.
“This is even the case when they enjoy fast and easy access to a major international airport. A decent municipal airport is an essential component of city status, just as should be the bus and railway stations.”
Mr Cook considered buying the airport after it was closed by owners Peel Holdings in 2008.
The airport, which opened in 1997, last ran scheduled flights in 2002.
But Mr Cook said he still believes it can be viable.
He said: “In this era of low cost flights to holiday destinations, when direct air travel to many European business cities from northern UK airports has become increasingly difficult, the importance to Sheffield of a municipal airport is growing.
“This is accentuated further when the atrocious communications with the north’s major international airport, Manchester, are taken into account.
“East Midlands and Leeds are small, with few useful business routes. Birmingham is too far away.
“Robin Hood is a poor joke, and the Sheffield ‘elders’ who thought it would suffice should have known better.”
Mr Cook conceded that Sheffield City Airport was ‘never likely to make a lot of money’.
But he added: “That is not its primary purpose.
“Its justification is as a major civic facility and gateway for business traffic.
“To destroy it would be unforgiveable.”
Sheffield Council’s city centre, south and east planning board last week granted permission for applicant Sheffield Business Park to redevelop the site in pieces rather than all at once.
The consent means work to build a warehouse for parcels distribution firm TNT can start in the coming weeks.