David Parkin has a problem

I’VE got a problem.

No, not that one.

Call me a cynical old … (insert your choice of word here), but I don’t buy the explanation put forward for the imminent closure of Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

The airport’s owner Peel Group plans to wind down the airport from the end of this month.

It warned several weeks ago that the airport, which employs 800 people, was to close “due to a fundamental lack of financial viability”.

Local politicians launched a campaign to save the airport, which is used by Tui and Wizz Air and has flights to destinations including the Canary Islands, Balearics, Greece, Turkey, Poland and the Baltic countries.

But at the end of last month Peel Group said “no tangible proposals” had been received regarding its future ownership.

South Yorkshire’s political leaders offered public money to keep DSA operating into 2023 which they said would buy time for potential new owners to come forward.

In the real world, it takes a long time to achieve the sale of an airport.

And who, in the current climate, would buy a loss-making airport?

So Peel Group said services would wind down from October 31.

Which led to local MPs Ed Miliband and Dame Rosie Winterton saying the power to save the airport now rests with the Government.

They pointed to comments by Prime Minister Liz Truss repeatedly saying she would help to secure its future.

The pair have written to Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan urging her to step in.

In a statement, they said: “We are today sending to the Transport Secretary legal advice which we have received which makes clear that the Secretary of State has the power to intervene to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport.”

But the Transport Secretary has said that it was up to Doncaster Council to try and “find a solution” to the planned closure.

Which prompted Doncaster’s Labour mayor Ros Jones to say that the Government had shown it was “not interested” in working to save the airport.

I have to say that as much as I don’t want to see Doncaster Sheffield Airport shut, calling on the Government to step in to prevent the closure and threatening legal action is not the answer.

The cold, hard facts are that there are not enough airlines and not enough passengers who want to fly from this corner of South Yorkshire which was once home to Vulcan bombers when it was RAF Finningley.

And as much as local politicians don’t like the idea of the airport closing, we live in a free market economy where the delivery of products and services are dictated by supply and demand.

I don’t criticise these politicians for their attempts to save the airport but I do wonder how much effort Peel Group has put into trying to make it a success.

The company owns the busy Liverpool John Lennon Airport but its principal investments are in other sectors such as property, transport and logistics.

It owns the Trafford Centre, Manchester Ship Canal, and ports in Liverpool, Kent and Scotland.

It is a significant investor in Harworth Group, one of the largest property and regeneration companies in the North of England and Midlands.

And its subsidiary business PLP is a specialist developer, manager and owner of UK logistics real estate.

The kind of vast warehousing and distribution centres that have sprung up beside our major roads and motorways in the last few years.

One of the great attractions of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, compared to say, its regional rival Leeds Bradford, is that it has excellent road connections which were put in before it opened.

You can easily get to the airport from the M1, A1 and M18.

Which means it is a very attractive site for a major logistics hub.

Yes, like the kind Peel Group helps develop.

You can imagine the conversation around the boardroom table at Peel Group’s headquarters at Trafford Park in Manchester.

Shall we continue running the loss-making Doncaster Sheffield Airport or shall we look at alternative uses for this prime 800-acre site in South Yorkshire with excellent transport connections?

Chairman John Whittaker, who founded Peel Group over 50 years ago, did not create a £2.3bn business by making poor decisions.


LET’S focus on some of the positive things Liz Truss has said in the last few days.


Actually, there is at least one.

She has committed to moving forward with the £25bn Northern Powerhouse Rail link connecting Liverpool, Bradford and Hull, in a reversal of changes planned by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister told ITV that she was “very clear” that the line will go ahead.

That’s a good thing.

I could never understand why Boris Johnson, who said “levelling up” the UK would be the “defining mission” of his government, spurned the big opportunities to improve the economy of the North of England

Northern Powerhouse Rail was watered down to such an extent that electrification would have only happened on part of the rail line crossing the Pennines meaning that journey times between cities like Leeds and Manchester or Hull and Liverpool would not change much at all.

And Bradford was frozen out of the plan completely.

Add to that the Government’s decision to “call in” the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport despite the local authority, Leeds City Council, backing the plans and you have some pretty clear evidence where Johnson left the North of England in a hole rather than helping level it up.

So let’s be generous to his successor and credit her with taking up the levelling up baton rather than ignoring it.

It is now up to Liz Truss and her Government to deliver on her pledges.

She can ill afford any more volte faces.

Her pledge on Northern Powerhouse Rail was greeted positively by regional leaders.

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said clarity on Northern Powerhouse Rail “is essential for businesses looking to invest here”, adding that taking the line through Bradford “would correct one of the biggest mistakes from the Integrated Rail Plan – its young, diverse population and dynamic economy are hugely constrained by woeful transport links.”

A Bradford stop on the planned route would boost the city’s economy by £30bn over 10 years, local leaders have claimed.

Bradford has plenty of potential but needs support to realise it.

Susan Hinchliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said she was looking forward to “constructive conversations” with the Government about when “we can start building”.

While Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire’s Mayor, said “this latest U-turn” was good news for Bradford and West Yorkshire.

What I found rather petty was that while welcoming this major commitment from the Prime Minister, the Mayor of West Yorkshire had to wrap it in a party political jibe.

Surely that is unnecessary and not conducive to creating the kind of positive, communicative relationship between central and local government that will help deliver major projects to benefit the regions.

I’ve not met Tracy Brabin but some of those people in business I know who have are unimpressed.

From what I can see from the outside, her focus since becoming the first metro mayor of West Yorkshire in May last year has been on championing the TV and film sector and moaning about public transport issues.

But what would you expect from a former Coronation Street actress?


I SPENT a week in Pembrokeshire in West Wales last week.

As well as walking part of the spectacular 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, I returned to Tenby for the first time in many years.

My uncle and aunt used to run a hotel in the centre of the town and we spent some lovely family holidays there when I was a child.

What impressed me the most was that, unlike some other UK seaside resorts, Tenby isn’t faded and run down.

It has smart shops and galleries, independent cafes and restaurants and with two big beaches and a harbour it combines the quaintness of a Cornish or North Yorkshire fishing village with the grandeur of a Victorian seaside resort.

We stayed in Fishguard in the north of Pembrokeshire which I hadn’t visited before but vaguely remembered from a history lesson at school.

One of my old teachers used to love catching his pupils out by asking when was the last time Britain was invaded.

We all said 1066 but he took great delight in telling us it was actually 1797 when a force of 1,400 troops from revolutionary France landed near Fishguard led by an Irish American called Colonel William Tate.

The invasion didn’t last long as apparently the French soldiers looted local properties and got completely drunk on wine, which meant their advance onto British soil didn’t get very far.

The heroine of what has become known as the “Last Invasion” was Jemima Nicholas, a 47-year-old cobbler from Pembrokeshire who is recorded to have single-handedly rounded-up a dozen French troops during the Battle of Fishguard and forced them to surrender armed with only a pitchfork.

Two-and-a-quarter centuries later and the Brits have finally got their own back for this outrageous attempt to conquer our green and pleasant land.

We now invade France every year and drink all their wine.


ONE other fact I learned about Fishguard is that it was used as a location in the making of John Huston’s classic 1956 movie Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck and Orson Welles.

A model of the great white whale was built at a cost of £4,000 and towed around the harbour by a tug boat during filming.

Until model Moby slipped its towline and floated loose in the harbour in a fog which prompted perhaps the most unusual call out that the Fishguard lifeboat crew have ever had.


ON a bus from Fishguard to join the coastal path at Strumble Head, I overheard two fellow passengers discussing some photos they were looking at on one of their phones.

The photos were of the acts at a recent tribute night to “music legends”.

One of the ladies said to her companion: “Now that one is definitely Tina Turner, I think that one is Scary Spice from the Spice Girls, that one is Cher. But who is that?” she said pointing at a photo.

“Is it Gracie Fields?” said her friend.

Have a great weekend.

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