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Doncaster airport set to soar again after council launches rescue 16 months after closure

Simon Calder’s Travel

The former Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) could stage a remarkable return to active aviation after the local council signed a lease with the site’s owner, Peel Group.

The announcement came 16 months after the South Yorkshire airport saw its last departure. The facility occupies the site of a former air force base, RAF Finningley. It is six miles from Doncaster and 19 miles from Sheffield.

The owner, Peel Group, said at the time of the closure: “No tangible proposals have been received regarding the ownership of the airport or which address the fundamental lack of financial viability.”

In the autumn of 2022, the then-prime minister Liz Truss vowed to “protect this airport and this infrastructure” but took no actual steps to save it.

Now, though, the mayor of Doncaster, Labour’s Ros Jones, has signed a deal for the local council to take over the airport.

Ms Jones posted on X: “Today I can announce that we have signed a 125-year lease for the former DSA which will help to ensure the future of the airport site with the ambition to see planes flying once more from Doncaster.”

The mayor later said: “This is a major step in the reopening process. The next is appointing an operator and investor who will manage and develop the airport.

“This process is well under way and I am optimistic that I can announce a partnership later in the spring.”

It is not clear which airport operator might be interested in running DSA. Manchester Airports Group, which owns Stansted and East Midlands as well as Manchester, is unlikely to become involved in a project that could dilute its existing business.

If and when the airport opens, Doncaster Sheffield could have a new name. When first opened to passengers in 2005, it was known as Robin Hood airport.

The aviation schedule analyst, Sean Moulton, said the new operator would find it “tough” to bring airlines into a revived Doncaster Sheffield airport and to make it profitable.

“It wasn’t successful under previous ownership, and with airlines appearing to consolidate at larger airports, it’ll be a challenge.”

Doncaster Sheffield has four competing airports within an hour’s drive. It is 28 miles from Humberside, 38 miles from Leeds Bradford, 46 miles from East Midlands and 53 miles from Manchester.

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