Call to Ban Commercial Flights From RAF Northolt

Government accused of hiding massive expansion of use of the air force base

Hawker Hurricane gate guardian at RAF Northolt Picture: Harrison49


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Commercial flights from an air force base used by the royal family must stop, a cross-party group of politicians has said.

RAF Northolt, in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge constituency, reopened to flights last month after a £23 million upgrade to its runway.

As well as military flights, Northolt is used by small planes as an exclusive London airport – the Queen and other royals often use it. The commercial service, branded London’s VIP Airport, is run by London City Airport.

Because Northolt is a military base, the recent runway upgrade did not require planning permission – so residents did not get the chance to voice their views in a planning consultation.

More than two thirds of locals were unaware the airport was reopening to commercial flights, according to a survey by small airport organisation the Regional and Business Airport’s Group.

Commercial flights from the base are currently capped at 12,000 a year – but an earlier limit of 7,000 flights was lifted in 2013. And a 2012 report from the Ministry of Defence said the airport could accommodate as many as 50,000 flights each year.

The Prime Minister, then Foreign Secretary, promised constituents flights would not increase two years ago. But now local politicians say commercial flights from the base must stop so the public can have a say on its future.

Harrow East Conservative MP Bob Blackman said air quality in the capital was “alarming”. He said: “There should be no increase in flights, flight paths or general aviation over or around Harrow or the wider west London area.

“I am concerned that commercial flights have restarted at Northolt and urge authorities to reconsider.”

Harrow West Labour MP Gareth Thomas said the Government has “sought to hide” what is happening at the base.

He said: “The vast majority of flights there are now commercial. There was no direct consultation from the Tories with residents of Harrow who live under the flight path just four miles away.”

Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said all commercial flights should be suspended until proper scrutiny took place.

She said: “RAF Northolt’s £23 million runway renovation and rebranding as ‘London’s VIP Airport’ clearly show an intention to transform Northolt into a commercial airport.

“It is time for those who run the airport to come clean with residents about their plans and to undergo the same assessments that any other commercial airport would be required to do.

“Hiding behind the lack of accountability facing a military airport is not acceptable.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “Civilian flights at RAF Northolt will continue to utilise spare capacity to ensure we get the best return for the taxpayer.

“The decision taken by Ministers in 2013 to set the cap in civil movements at 12,000 remains in place.

“The closure of the airfield for renovation in 2019 was for Military requirements and had no association with further commercialisation.”

London City Airport declined to comment.

Jessie Mathewson - Local Democracy Reporter

December 10, 2019

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