Anger at airport housing project

Bosses at Robin Hood Airport have been granted planning permission to construct 750 new homes and a business park on the hub’s doorstep, according to South Yorkshire newspaper, The Star. The news comes after Doncaster Council identified the development as a ‘key’ site for industry at a meeting on January 11 2011.

With the property market still foundering in the recession’s roiling sea, choosing to spend a fortune on the construction of new properties might seem a foolhardy venture, especially as Robin Hood’s new project will be built within a few miles of the airport, where demand for housing is often meagre, at best. However, airport bosses are convinced that the housing scheme will force developers to invest in the controversial FARRRS (Finningley and Rossington Regeneration Route Scheme) motorway link, as the former project cannot exist without the latter.

FARRRS, linking the airport to the M18 motorway, has been delayed and underfunded for almost as long as Doncaster Airport has been open to the public. Yet, both Doncaster Council and Peel Airports, the current owner of Robin Hood, consider the FARRRS road to be a vital part of the Yorkshire airport’s future, capable of generating around £1bn in additional income. Sadly, at least for Doncaster and Peel Airports, the government is not interested in the FARRRS project:

“The government has indicated that FARRRS will not be seen as a priority in its current spending review,” explained Andy Gutherson, assistant director of planning at Doncaster Council. The young airport, together with whatever investors it can pluck from the local area, must therefore plug an estimated £11m funding shortfall in the FARRRS project with money from its own pocket. Of course, anybody with an interest in South Yorkshire aviation (a niche subject), will know that Robin Hood Airport has a history of debt problems, making direct investment unlikely at present.

Whilst airport bosses have not commented on the total cost of Robin Hood’s housing project, or how much money can be squeezed from future residents, the project is being made a “priority” by Doncaster Council, as the absence of key transport links around the airport is causing problems for local businesses. “We struggle to get people to into work here,” said councillor, Yvonne Woodcock.

However, despite the council’s enthusiasm for the scheme, many local residents have been left confused and angry. Householders have accused Doncaster Council of "overriding" its promise to protect the rural environment, by setting a “precedent” for the construction of buildings on valuable green belt land. Equally, nearby schools, already over-subscribed with children, could face serious problems if subjected to an influx of new pupils.

On the flip side, the FARRRS road and the housing development could create thousands of new jobs, and make Doncaster Airport a target for foreign investors. There is a “real appetite” among business leaders to work with the South Yorkshire hub, according to Peel Airports’ Peter Nears.

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