The potential of Doncaster Sheffield Airport is “almost beyond comprehension,” according to the man leading the drive to expand it.
Robert Hough, chairman of Peel Airports, said the site at Finningley could pump an extra £6billion into the local economy and create thousands of jobs if it reached its capacity of 25million passengers-a-year in the next 20 years.
And the economic and social benefits would “radiate” across Sheffield City Region.
He said: “Airports connect at all levels: business, friends, relationships. They are a great magnet for economic growth for decades ahead, no other, single location can do that. They are a rare and exceptional asset. Airports are not about what goes on on the site, there’s a radiation of activity beyond its boundary.
“Peel is determined to make it succeed.”
The firm was one of three private sector companies that contributed more than £10m each to help pay for the Great Yorkshire Way - a £56m link road which has cut the journey time to Sheffield city centre to 25 minutes. It opened last year.
He added: “I think the link road was transformational, not only for access but for perception. It’s concentrated our minds and I hope of the city region the Northern Powerhouse and national aviation policy.”
Mr Hough wants Doncaster Sheffield to be the main airport on the east side of the country, with a station on a re-routed East Coast Mainline.
He added: “We are in the foothills of this journey. It’s pretty ambitious but it’s logical and if it’s logical it’s attainable. It’s not pie in the sky, it’s credible, it achieves a purpose for the Government, Department of Transport and Transport for the North.”
Peel Group has £5billion worth of assets under ownership or management including Media City in Manchester and John Lennon Airport in Liverpool.
It has built a reputation for taking on long term schemes, often in challenging circumstances, and making them succeed, economically, financially and socially, Mr Hough said.
He added: “We need to have collaboration across the piece. It can’t be us financially, alone. I think we have laid the foundation and explained our vision.
“This is a longer journey with a bigger prize than Media City. Airports are unique in what they can achieve and the radiation of benefits in terms of inward investment, reputation and jobs.
“Participation is important, then we want to move on to the Northern Powerhouse and Government. Doncaster Sheffield Airport is the solution to congestion of air space in the South East and at Heathrow and Gatwick
“I think the biggest challenge, and therefore opportunity, is to lay out our vision and receive financial support from local authorities.
“It requires external contributions to maximise it’s potential, to co-invest for returns that are social and economic.
“Airports are extraordinarily capital hungry, they require repeated claims on capital to deliver expansion. But when the juggernaut starts to roll, the momentum increases.”