Who talks nonsense?

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I AM indebted to former city councillor Howard Knight for ensuring some council records concerning the airport were deposited in the local archives.

What a pity his successors have felt no such need. Many documents relating to the airport have been lost or destroyed. That’s according to the Office of the Commissioner for Information.

I have thoroughly researched existing council records at the archives as well as those of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. Sadly, I cannot agree with much that Howard wrote.

As far back as 1923 the Air Ministry wrote to Sheffield Corporation pointing out the ‘challenges and opportunities of aviation and the need to provide an aerodrome’. This encouraged the corporation to employ Sir Alan Cobham to report on a suitable site. After an exhaustive search he settled on the existing airfield at Coal Aston. The Corporation eventually acquired the land… but, post war, the Labour controlled authority chose to build municipal housing on the site.

The next move was made in 1950 when a location, on corporation-owned land, at Redmires, was chosen. This received technical advice, and a commendation from technical officers employed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation whose department did, in fact, reject the proposal… on grounds of finance!

The mid 1960s saw a serious attempt by Sheffield in co-operation with Chesterfield Council and Derbyshire County Council. A comprehensive proposal for an airport at Todwick was accepted by the Conservatives (who controlled Sheffield for a few years). In 1969, with Labour back in control, the plans were swiftly scrapped and Labour councillors were heard to mutter that if ‘they want one let them pay for it’. Presumably ‘they’ being the flourishing business community. As the then Chair of the Chamber of Commerce wrote: “They (Labour) seem to have set their faces against an airport for Sheffield.”

Then Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, Wing Commander Douglas Iveson, did say that the perfect situation (if ever released by the MoD) was RAF Finningley but, he added, with a small airstrip in Sheffield. This is where the SDC and Sheffield City Airport come in. Opened in late 1997, after considerable advice, with a public contribution of £7,750,000 (excluding the cost of 120 acres of prime development land on the M1 corridor) it was built to mainly serve the business community by small capacity short take-off and landing aircraft.

It is strange that no offers to purchase Sheffield City (and there were some reasonable and serious ones) were ever considered by the council or airport operators.

Could it be Howard Knight who is talking nonsense.

DS Dalton, author of Sheffield: the Aviation Wilderness