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| YOU ARE VIEWING ARTICLE - ID:20121111018 |
|Title:||Airport Decision May Wreck Region’s Competitiveness|
|Author:||Federation of Small Businesses |
|ID & Publication:||20121111018 ~ The-Villager.co.uk |
|Subject:||Business News |
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has expressed grave concern regarding the ability of the Sheffield City Region to compete with neighbouring regions in light of the assertion of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) that the future of commercial aviation in South Yorkshire rests solely with Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport.
The LEP plans to redevelop the former Sheffield City Airport to build a business park on the site. The FSB however believes that the airport might have a vital role to play in the regeneration of the regional economy and wishes to preserve the airport infrastructure until some fresh expert opinion is sought and a public enquiry held to determine its future. The FSB has initiated a petition to determine the views of local businesses which has so far attracted 700 signatories.
Whilst the LEP remains steadfast in its intent to demolish what remains of the Sheffield City Airport, the FSB points out that the present level of operations at the Robin Hood Airport provides little confidence that it will be in any position to fulfil South Yorkshire’s international business travel needs. The number of flights leaving Robin Hood Airport has dwindled to an average of 2 – 3 per day, its passenger numbers have declined to fewer than 700,000 per year (less than 40% of the original projection), its location is notoriously ‘awkward’, it currently serves solely holiday destinations and its owners reportedly recorded losses of £11.4 million last year. These factors must raise serious questions about its potential for providing a sound aviation future for the City Region.
There exists a genuine opportunity to focus the region’s regeneration on high technology manufacturing, advanced producer services, environmental services, bio-sciences, business and financial services and creative industries. The green shoots are there to be seen on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, the Local Enterprise Zone and the Sheffield / Rotherham industrial axis, but must be nourished and cultivated.
Stephen Spooner of S. Spooner & Associates Limited said:
‘Our company acts as a bridge to China/UK/Europe business and investment. Apart from being too far away and the long-awaited link-road not built yet, from what we understand Robin Hood Airport in our opinion offers no prospects of having serious inter-continental connections for outward business travel, nor indeed more importantly inter-continental business connections for visiting customers. This makes travel from and to the rapidly developing economies in the Far East, Africa and South America difficult. It therefore reduces outward expansion and inward investment.’
Gordon Millward, Regional Chairman of the FSB, commented:
‘The FSB has grave concerns about the ability of the Sheffield City Region to compete with its neighbours, given its present stance on accessing the world’s markets. Potential inward investors look primarily for locations which have convenient transport links, a fast connection to the capital and – crucially – ready access to a major international ‘hub’ airport. On that basis, South Yorkshire is destined to be a clear loser: whilst 190 take-off and landing slots are allocated each week to shuttles between Manchester and Heathrow for example, the corresponding number of Heathrow slots allocated to flights out of all the combined Yorkshire and Humber airports is zero. Whilst the North West, North East, East Midlands, and West Midlands regions have developed the necessary aviation infrastructure, Robin Hood Airport has become the Marie Celeste of world business travel. To place all of the region’s global trade eggs in this basket has to be seen as reckless at best.
‘We urgently need to be assured that the LEP has a strategy for making up ground on other UK regions competing for trade and inward investment. The ‘City on the Move’ has become the Cinderella of the north, with Leeds and Manchester as the Ugly Sisters. We need the LEP to deliver a golden carriage, but all they’ve come up with so far is a pumpkin. They should tell us how they intend to provide the City Region with a route of access to the key customers, suppliers and partners in the major commercial and industrial centres of western Europe and open the door to global markets. A bland assertion that Robin Hood Airport represents the future of commercial aviation in South Yorkshire seems, under the circumstances, more an expression of blind faith than a realistic strategy for regeneration.
‘It is on this basis that the FSB maintains that the former Sheffield City Airport may yet have a part to play in the future of Sheffield City Region. Proposals for its permanent obliteration are a dangerous and unnecessary gamble with an existing asset that may turn out to be the economic salvation of the City Region.’
The FSB awaits an announcement from the board of the LEP on its strategy for the future of international business travel.
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