Stop ‘harassing’ council officers for information, airport protest group is told

Defunct: Questions have been asked about the former Sheffield City Airport by members of action group SCAM.
Defunct: Questions have been asked about the former Sheffield City Airport by members of action group SCAM.

CAMPAIGNERS who have made repeated calls for a public inquiry into the demise of Sheffield City Airport have been warned to stop ‘wasting time’ and ‘harassing’ council officers with requests for information.

Over the last four years, members of Sheffield City Airport Movement have made repeated demands for documents and reports about the airport, how it was being run and discussions ahead of its closure in 2008.

Among details uncovered by the group, a collection of aviation enthusiasts whose members include Stewart Dalton, of Westfield, was that officials discussed closure behind closed doors in the early part of the last decade.

Under the airport’s original lease, efforts were supposed to have been made to attract airlines for its first 10 years, from 1997 to 2007, after which the owner could receive the freehold of the site for just £1 if it was not making a profit.

Concerns from SCAM about whether the conditions were followed has led to an investigation by the European Commission, which provided £3 million towards construction of a link road to the airport. The results of the probe have not yet been revealed.

As the council refused to hold a public inquiry, SCAM members have been trying to obtain the documents themselves.

Latest papers requested by Mr Dalton under the Freedom of Information Act were the leasehold agreement between the council and Tinsley Park Limited, the airport’s original operating company.

He has also asked for proof of whether the freehold to the land was transferred from the council to Sheffield Business Park - the company set up by property firm Peel, which took over in 2002, and other investors to run a development which will replace the airport.

The council has revealed the £1 token payment was never collected, and Sheffield Business Park is being asked for proof it now has ownership of the land by the council as a condition of receiving planning permission to redevelop the airport as a business park.

But Mr Dalton’s latest request was met with a reply from Peter Harrow, of the council’s legal services team, which said: “Any further searches of council records will not yield any more information, so further requests made on behalf of SCAM can only be designed to waste time and resources, and to harass the council.”

Mr Harrow warned future requests from SCAM would be treated as vexatious, enabling the council to refuse to respond.

Mr Dalton said: “I am merely asking questions to try and reveal the truth. “It seems we have been blacklisted when our case is still being considered by the European Commission.”