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Doncaster Sheffield Airport expands as planet burns

Capacity to increase by 300,000 a year, despite Climate Emergency declaration by Mayor Dan Jarvis and Doncaster Council.

Robin Hood Airport 2006 04 02

The airport as Robin Hood Airport.

Photo by Dbertman (Wikimedia Commons).

Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) has announced that its expanding its flight capacity by 300,000 seats a year, in the middle of a global pandemic and an escalating climate crisis.

DSA, which opened in 2005 as Robin Hood Airport, has been chosen as a second UK base by ultra-low cost airline Wizz Air, with Faro, Alicante and Malaga among the new destinations on offer.

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has welcomed the move in an industry newspaper, despite declaring a 'Climate Emergency' in November last year.

He told Now Then that the new Wizz Air base was a "big vote of confidence" in South Yorkshire's economy at a time when it is facing major challenges.

"That does not at all diminish the urgent need for the decarbonisation of the airline industry. Air travel in its current form makes a significant and growing contribution to carbon emissions, and is not sustainable without major changes," he said.

"I believe the government should be doing much more both in the UK and internationally to accelerate that transition."

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Extinction Rebellion Sheffield.

Photo by Extinction Rebellion Sheffield.

The new Wizz Air flights are only part of a much larger expansion proposed for DSA, which will see the terminal double in size and a new railway station link the site to the East Coast Mainline.

Owner Peel Airports want passenger numbers to rise from 1.25 million in 2016 to 4.7 million by 2037 and 11.8 million by 2050.

But climate campaigners say that Sheffield City Region and Doncaster Council must now block any further expansion at the site.

"In an age of escalating climate crisis, ecological breakdown and pandemics, forging ahead with the expansion of Doncaster Sheffield Airport is simply reckless," Nathan Strathdee of Extinction Rebellion Sheffield told Now Then.

"Alongside more extreme weather, the consequences of airport expansion include increased noise pollution for surrounding areas."

The Wizz Air base has been welcomed by Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones, who described the airport as "a catalyst for economic growth", even though Doncaster Council declared its own 'Climate Emergency' last September.

Mayor Jones told Now Then that she would "strive to support and promote Doncaster businesses like never before" to minimise the economic impact of the pandemic.

“By expanding the number of routes at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and improving connections to the motorway network and enhancing public transport routes to provide better access, millions more people from across the region can now quickly and easily get to their local airport for their flights rather than have a potential long drive to Manchester and other airports," she said.

"Shorter journeys to airports can help reduce the impact on the environment."

Aviation makes up around 15% of the UK's climate impact, and organisations like Greenpeace have called for the government to invest in rail as an alternative to airport expansion.

Strathdee says that campaigns across the country have been successful in blocking or delaying airport expansion on environmental grounds.

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Extinction Rebellion campaigning against Leeds Bradford Airport expansion.

Photo by Extinction Rebellion Leeds.

"The courts have told the government that they must consider the climate impacts in the expansion of Heathrow, Bristol Airport's expansion is currently blocked, and there is a large movement against Leeds Bradford Airport's expansion," he said.

"Dan Jarvis and Doncaster City Council like to talk the talk on environmental issues, now they must walk the walk and block the airport's expansion."

In a statement to Now Then, DSA said that they were committed to delivering economic benefits to the region "in a responsible way that supports the global need for action against climate change."

"The UK Aviation strategy published December 2018 sets out a vision and plan to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050, a timescale that is consistent with many other industries striving for net carbon neutrality."

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