Inquiry to protect regional infrastructure


Published 1 February 2023 at 12:00pm

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard has announced plans for an independent Inquiry to help protect strategic infrastructure in South Yorkshire.

The Inquiry was triggered by the decision of Peel Group to close Doncaster Sheffield Airport last year and follows an unsuccessful appeal for judicial review of their decision by Doncaster Council.
The Inquiry will look at whether new powers, policies or laws are needed to protect similar and new infrastructure projects in the future, at the local, national, and regional level – including through our devolution settlement.  Its findings are expected to hold lessons for places outside of South Yorkshire, feeding into the national conversation about regional economies and powers.

It will be chaired by respected lawyer, business, civic leader and a former High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, Martin McKervey.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said: "What happened to our airport should never have been allowed, and yet we did not have the ability to stop it from happening. We were at the mercy of a private company over whom we had no control, and a government in London who refused to intervene. That simply can’t be allowed to happen again.

“Increasingly, we are talking about how proper devolution might work in this country. For me, proper devolution has to mean putting power in the hands of our communities so we can build the type of economy we want for our region and have proper democratic control over the infrastructure we all rely on.

“South Yorkshire has lost two airports in ten years. Despite the millions of investments and the years of support our region poured into DSA, when push came to shove we simply didn’t have the powers, money or control we needed to stop it from being closed and mothballed.

“We need to urgently look at how we shift the balance of power back into the hands of our communities, so we can protect economically essential assets and infrastructure now and into the future. That’s why I welcome this inquiry and look forward to its recommendations.”

Doncaster Council has announced that they are pursuing a Compulsory Purchase Order for the Airport.  The Inquiry’s scope will be defined so as to prevent its work being in any way prejudicial to ongoing legal action surrounding the Airport.  The Inquiry’s recommendations should ensure that any future airport’s operations are more secure than those that have come before.

Inquiry chair, Martin McKervey said: “The strong feelings of business and the local community over Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s closure show that - whilst due process is of course to be respected - it is clearly not enough in itself to ensure private decisions and regional ambitions are aligned.

“It is therefore right that independent experts - trusted by business, the community and a wide range of stakeholders - come together to review what more can be done to protect our critical infrastructure and economic assets.”

The Inquiry will be led by the independent chair, with a secretariat provided by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority at arm’s length to maintain independence, in line with the model of a central government Inquiry.

The review will be impartial, transparent, and will take evidence from community groups, businesses, business organisations, stakeholders, institutions, and members of the public including political leaders.  A full Terms of Reference document will be agreed by the chair and members of the Inquiry team and published in due course.

The review is expected to consider: the policy context shaping commercial decision-making over assets identified as of regional strategic significance, like Doncaster Sheffield Airport; the division of powers across different tiers of government to support such assets; and recommendations to local, regional, and national government on how to prevent the abrupt closure of such assets in the future.

The Inquiry will be led by an independent and impartial chair, supported by a secretariat provided at arm’s length by the MCA.  The chair will lead a wider team of impartial representatives, expecting to draw on business, civil society, and government officials – from both within South Yorkshire and nationally.

A full Terms of Reference will be agreed by the Chair and other members of the Inquiry and published in due course, but they will be asked to review the policy framework that enabled the closure of Doncaster Sheffield Airport; and to propose reforms at national, regional and local levels to prevent the abrupt closure of critical infrastructure without reference to other stakeholders’ views or the implications for wider strategic and economic objectives.

Members of the public will be invited to provide written submissions to the Inquiry, and the Inquiry is expected to hold evidence sessions to hear from academics, politicians, other leaders including Business Representative Organisations, community, and voluntary organisations.

The precise length of the Inquiry will depend on a work plan the chair will develop in collaboration with other members.  We anticipate this will run through to summer 2023.

Martin McKervey is a respected lawyer, and a business and civic leader.  A former High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, Martin is also a former member of the South Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the Transport for the North Board.  He is chairman of the British Chambers of Commerce Northern Regional Assembly, representing 17,000 businesses across the North’s sixteen Chambers of Commerce.

Oliver Coppard and Martin McKervey will be available for interview on Weds 1st Feb. Contact:


Last Updated: 06/02/2023

Published In: Governance, Transport, Mayor, Featured