Doncaster Sheffield Airport: Potential buyer's latest offer is 'over market value', says mayor
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Mr Coppard, who recently celebrated six months in office, discussed the future of Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA), the cost of living crisis and the issues facing Sheffield’s buses during a wide ranging ‘Mayor’s Question Time’ session.
The first topic of discussion was the future of DSA, which hangs in the balance after owners Peel group controversially announced its closure in summer, risking 800 jobs. Mr Coppard said: “We’ve gone out to the market and found investors, which is an unusual step for a local authority to take.
“We’ve actually had two offers and the second one was incredibly substantial, over market value in my view and Peel are currently considering the offer. I think the airport is best in the hands of the private sector as they have the expertise and the contacts.”
Mr Coppard took a swipe at the lack of action in Westminster, saying that previous Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan ‘ignored’ the issue – although he recognised that new minister Mark Harper has been more receptive so far. He also noted that the Government may well have done more if the airport was ‘down south’.
An audience member challenged the mayor on how he squares ‘net zero’ targets with saving an airport. Mayor Coppard reiterated his commitment to net zero by 2040 for South Yokrshire but made clear he “can’t foresee” a future without flying in some form, noting it’s vital for seeing family and friends, such as his sister who lives in Egypt.
After the event,he struck a more optimistic note as he told The Star: “I hope Peel do the right thing by accepting what I think is a very good offer and I am confident that in time we will have a thriving regional airport here in Sheffield.”
The rising cost of living has taken a grip on the whole country and Mr Coppard stressed the importance of helping the most vulnerable, pointing to the £2 cap on bus fares and the fact that
Sheffield has more ‘welcome spaces’ (a term he prefers to ‘warm spaces’) per capita than most spaces. He said: “It’s deeply depressing that that we need these spaces. This government has not moved forwards with things like retrofitting, solar and renewables.”
The most bruising section came on public transport with a passionate audience member challenging the mayor on Sheffield’s buses, saying he had been ‘well meaning but ineffective’ and claiming that ‘the bus service is bloody well caving in’.
Mr Coppard reaffirmed his commitment to public ownership of buses and trams, pointing to the example set by Andy Burnham in Manchester. But he warned that public ownership is not a ‘silver bullet’, saying: “Fewer people are using the buses because the buses aren’t good enough which is less money in the system. We need to get more people using the system so there’s money to put buses on the road.”
Buses in Sheffield ‘so unreliable’
An elderly audience member said buses are so unreliable she has to leave early and plan two or three buses in advance to make sure she doesn’t miss hospital appointments. Mr Coppard responded: “I can’t promise that it’s going to get better tomorrow or in a month, but I am absolutely committed to putting punctuality of buses central to what I’m doing. I’m sorry it’s not good enough.”
Later, he told The Star: “I think we’re doing everything we can with the buses, we have some of the cheapest fares in the whole country. But I know the system is not good enough, we’re looking to see what we can do to bring buses back under public control. I’m not satisfied with it and I’m sure the travelling public is not satisfied with it.”