A MYSTERY bidder has come forward to buy Sheffield’s mothballed airport.
The as-yet unnamed would-be buyer has contacted the Federation of Small Businesses - who say he ‘is no stranger to the aviation industry’ and has ‘many business interests’ in the city and across the UK.
Details of his bid and his finances have been passed to Sheffield Council.
Neville Martin, development manager for the FSB in South Yorkshire, said: “We have checked his credentials and are satisfied this is a serious bid, and should be taken seriously.
“This is an incredibly important development. Somebody is prepared to put his money where his mouth is and re-open the airport.”
Campaigners say plans to turn the former airport site into a business park should now be put on hold until an independent public inquiry is held to look into the future of commercial aviation in the region.
The man has told the FSB he wants to buy the 80 acre site from its owners, Peel Holdings and a consortium of private investors, and reopen it to flights.
He claims he could operate scheduled services to UK and European cities, and proposes to offer flight training, air taxi, and business charter services.
He would also open a restaurant and other leisure facilities in a redeveloped airport terminal.
Owners of the site - bought from Sheffield Council for just £1 - have planning permission to develop a business park there.
Gordon Millward, regional chairman of the FSB, said: “Throughout our campaign to save the airport from redevelopment, there has been a myth put about that the former airport was closed because it was not commercially viable.
“We have vigorously refuted that view, and our stance has been vindicated by the entry of a serious bidder into the frame.
“It is our considered opinion that a regional airport will be of infinitely greater value than yet another business park to the future development of the city region.”
He added: “There is business property everywhere standing vacant, and acres of land all around the region to build more if we need it.
“What the region needs more than anything else at this time is an urban airport to bring in businesses and investment to drive the regeneration.
“This development would complement the continued operation of Robin Hood Airport at Doncaster, as the two address totally different markets.
“Manchester has two airports and the South Lancashire region has four. We need to be able to compete with other regions or we’ll be left even further behind in attracting new businesses to this region.
“I have written to Sheffield Council to recommend it pursues the matter with urgency.”
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, said: “Sheffield Council is not in a position to determine the future of the former Sheffield Airport site. It belongs to Sheffield Business Park and the check-in building was converted to offices years ago. The council has no grounds whatsoever, or indeed enforceable powers, to attempt to seek to inhibit or delay the redevelopment of the site.
“It is also important to note that the former airport land is now within an Enterprise Zone and has the potential to create up to 3,000 new jobs in the city.
“To return the site to a functioning and commercially viable airport would require a huge investment of tens of millions.
“Any private sector investment proposal would need to approach the landowners about this first, not the council. The council’s involvement would only be that of planning authority should revised plans for the site be submitted.”
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