Doncaster catches up

As Robin Hood airport prepares to open, Zoe Dare Hall looks at the impact on local house prices
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The Independent Online

Nine out of 10 contributors to Donny.co.uk, "the online pulse of Doncaster", are disgruntled. Their home will soon be listed on departure boards from the Far East to the Caribbean, when an international airport opens in March on the former RAF nuclear bomber base at Finningley.

Nine out of 10 contributors to Donny.co.uk, "the online pulse of Doncaster", are disgruntled. Their home will soon be listed on departure boards from the Far East to the Caribbean, when an international airport opens in March on the former RAF nuclear bomber base at Finningley.

The airport, seven miles south-east of Doncaster, will create 7,000 jobs. Commercial and residential property could see the kind of demand that places Doncaster as one point on a new Golden Triangle, with Sheffield and Nottingham, to rival the old wealthy northern triumvirate of Harrogate, Leeds and York.

But website visitors are unhappy with the airport's name: Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield. "What's Sheffield got to do with it?" asks one contributor, pointing out that the city is 22 miles away. "It will always be known as Finningley to me," says another. Besides, isn't Robin Hood more associated with Nottingham, which has an airport of its own?

Robin Hood airport's owners Peel Holdings, which also owns Liverpool John Lennon airport, have decided that local links with the legendary outlaw are strong enough (Mr Hood apparently married Maid Marian at Campsall Church near Doncaster, and lived in nearby Hampole with Little John, for a start). No doubt Peel is far more concerned with the commercial reality, given the investment the £80m airport could bring to South Yorkshire and north Nottinghamshire.

Four million people live within an hour's drive of the airport and Doncaster has excellent links to the M1, M62 and M18, East Coast Main Line rail routes and the Humber ports.

With the second-longest runway in the north of England, the airport will be able to handle Boeing 747 jets taking off to long-haul destinations. Thomson Holidays and ThomsonFly are already signed up to be among the first to fly out of Doncaster on 16 March.

So it would seem good news for Doncaster, where property prices in the past year have already seen the biggest increases in Yorkshire and Humberside, rising by 30 per cent to an average £121,000 for a house.

Nicola Hart from Doncaster County Council's economic development team, said: "Anything within 50 miles should benefit. Hotels are bidding for contracts to put up cabin crews and the airport is creating thousands of long-term jobs."

Guy Hunter, of chartered surveyors Grice & Hunter in Doncaster, is more circumspect. "Many are optimistic about it bringing people to the area and raising property prices, but the other camp feel there are too many airports nearby as it is, with Leeds-Bradford, Manchester, East Midlands - and Humberside, which didn't do much for the local area. The airline industry is a fickle one, so we're looking at the bigger picture without rose-tinted glasses."

Doncaster's lakeside has been transformed with exclusive commercial premises and apartments, and IKEA, the Swedish furniture store, is soon to open a store in the city after planning permission was refused in Sheffield.

But Hunter adds that while there is undoubtedly sizeable investment in Doncaster and property values in some areas have increased as much as 100 per cent, "that's because we were lagging behind for so long and now we've caught up with other parts of the country. It's not necessarily to do with the airport.

"Doncaster's big advantage is its geographical location, well-placed for motorways and train links, so big companies such as BMW and B&Q have their distribution centres here."

Hunter says villages such as Sprotborough and Bessacar remain popular places for investment and are far enough from the airport to be unaffected by noise. But residents in the village of Bawtry, where houses have hit the £1m mark, could soon find themselves becoming acquainted with the roar of jet engines.

Tearle Phelan, head of Sheffield residential development at Knight Frank, is optimistic about the impact of the airport on Sheffield's property market. "The airport will be a huge boost for Sheffield as we're only 20 miles away so it's close enough to commute from here if you work in Doncaster.

"Villages such as Bawtry have seen values suppressed over recent years but they are now going to see an influx of wealth. The most growth will be near the M18 corridor, which is closest to the airport but has lots of countryside and beautiful villages. High-income earners will go for the upmarket areas in the south west of Sheffield, near the Peak District."

Grice & Hunter, Doncaster 01302 360141

Knight Frank, Sheffield 0114 272 9750

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