The closure of Doncaster Sheffield Airport has hit the local community, with more than 2,700 people losing their jobs. The Airport is one of the City’s biggest assets and despite local authorities taking legal action and Doncaster people pleading for change, take-off remains a long way off.
Aimee Batty has just lost her full-time job as a result of the closure of Doncaster Sheffield Airport. Aimee, like many of her friends and colleagues, has been left deflated.
After recently speaking to Aimee, it became evident just how personal one business closing can be. The young adult, who had become independent, with her own home and life, lost her financial stability, leaving her in fight or flight.
“You could say that I took a hit in hours. From doing 40 hours, doing five or six shifts a week to doing two”, Aimee told me, the anguish in her voice blatantly apparent.
Over the summer the unstable situation of Doncaster Sheffield Airport meant that many of the staff were moved onto zero-hour contracts, but it seemed those zero-hours were taken far too literally: “It started where I was going two weeks with no hours whatsoever and I can’t [couldn’t do that]”.
Only a couple of months later, Aimee heard the worst news:
“In mid September I was told that I was no longer needed and that hit me. Then they announced the closure and that’s when I thought “that’s why they got rid of me”, she said with anger and upset.
And now, the airport is shrouded by winter clouds with no planes scheduled to depart or arrive. The mood of local people remains defiant though and the community is petitioning to save their airport.
‘Doncaster today is a major travel, logistics and distribution hub in the heart of Britain.’
The old RAF Finningley Airfield has been in use since 1915. It was crucial during war time, but it’s been decided that the full site will be closed this year in November.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport has provided years of flights and cargo transport, employed thousands of local people and has been an asset to the community of Doncaster City.
Doncaster gained its city status only this year; the original bid states that, ‘Doncaster today is a major travel, logistics and distribution hub in the heart of Britain.’
However, Peel Group, who own the airport, claimed that the business wasn’t ‘financially viable’; In September, despite many bids to save the airport they decided to go ahead with the closure.
The statistics used as part of Doncaster’s bid to become a city suggest a different story to the one being told by the owners. In 2019 the airport had a passenger throughput of 1.29 million. In 2020 it was the only UK airport with over one million passengers, that was not in a city.
In 2022 Peel Group is worth around £2.3 billion pounds and they own a large amount of land across the UK. Doncaster isn’t the only community struggling with work, as Liverpool Docks is also under pressure, their staff on strike for ‘better’ and ‘fairer’ pay.
However, the team spirit and determination from local support is growing and the people of Doncaster are actively contacting MP’s, the Government and setting up petitions to ‘Save Doncaster Sheffield Airport’.
Doncaster’s Mayor, Ros Jones, has instigated legal action against Peel Group to make a compulsory purchase, but at the moment all logistical talks are behind closed doors. In a recent statement Ms Jones wrote:
“DSA is and should continue to be an economic driver for Doncaster, South Yorkshire and the North! This is why Doncaster Council is throwing the kitchen sink at trying to save our airport, the best airport in the country.”
Alongside the current cost of living crisis, the closure is putting Aimee and her colleagues in a very difficult position, jobless and with empty pockets.
According to The Office of National Statistics ‘Around 4 in 10 (43%) adults who pay energy bills said they found it very or somewhat difficult to afford them in the latest period.’
Around 2,700 people working for the airport, or in employment connected to the airport, will lose their jobs too. This will have a devastating effect on an already high unemployment area. Doncaster is currently above the UK average for unemployment, at 4.8% in 2022 compared to the national 3.8%.
Peel Group hasn’t really supported the staff, Aimee told me. With some distress, she explained that from the inside, the closure ‘feels very profit orientated’ and that ‘they [Peel] don’t care about us.’
But Aimee refuses to be beaten by this turn in her fortunes. She has now secured herself a full-time job in a warehouse, in Doncaster, which is something she feels lucky to have.
Life inside an airport is busy with not only the security, check-in and the all-important teams who make sure passengers get to their destination safely. There is ‘The World of Duty Free’ and food establishments in the airport too. For all these people, jobs will be lost and may not be so simple to replace.
Doncaster has been shaped by the airport and just its presence, whether it be for their own earnings, a holiday, or something they can tell tales from.
“I am just one of thousands hoping DSA will not close”.
For Bryan Glover, 68, the airport provides a sense of nostalgia and locks in core memories from his childhood. Bryan grew up in Doncaster and spent a lot of time in Finningley, by the airport, in a bookmaker’s where his friend, ‘Aunt May’, used to work.
“Lots of the airmen came to the shop to buy cigarettes and have a bet.” Bryan tells his story with a clear warmth and affection for this local landmark and this warmth was genuine and touching.
“I recall talking to an officer one day about how I loved the Finningley air display every year and he invited me to come into the base as his guest. I was over-wrought with excitement”, he told me and went on to describe the memory, with possibly the same enthusiasm he had when he was a boy.
He continued, telling me he’d love to remember the names of the pilots he once looked up to, reminiscing on the ‘really good memories’, however told me that ‘sadly they will just have to stay in my mind.’
But Bryan’s nostalgia is not alone, as social media has been a driving force in the bid to save Doncaster Airport and has picked up the torch of local memories and run with it.
One Facebook group, ‘Save DSA’ has more than 15,000 members and is linked to a petition to save the airport with 105,813 signatures.
Members are sharing images and thoughts and not holding back their upset. One member wrote on the page: “…the recent ‘final’ posts have moved me to tears. All the unnecessary job losses, the stress people have been under, it’s just so wrong!”
Another said: “I am just one of thousands hoping DSA will not close”.
This quote speaks volumes for the entirety of Doncaster City.