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Biggin Hill Olympic airport bid shot down

Biggin Hill airport front of terminal

Biggin Hill airport front of terminal

Archant

An ex-pilot fears Biggin Hill could become the "terrorist airport of the Olympics" and claims the mixture of aircraft operating there makes it a "very dangerous" airfield.

Aerial view of Biggin Hill

The accusations came at a packed public meeting at Bromley’s civic centre this week where proposals for Biggin Hill Airport Limited to extend its opening hours and increase flights during London 2012 were rejected by the council’s executive.

Had they been approved, an extra 683 aircraft would have flown in and out of the historic airport over a two-month period next July to September from 6.30am to 11pm.

Questioning council leader Stephen Carr on Monday, Bromley resident Nicholas Voisey said: “As an ex-pilot I am concerned at the mixture of aircraft operating at Biggin Hill. This is hard to manage and makes it a very dangerous airport.

“Given the ease that you can enter the parameter what assurance can you give that Biggin Hill will not become the terrorist airport of the Olympics?”

Biggin Hill airport

After three-and-a-half hours of debate, a unanimous rejection was made by the seven members of the executive in the great hall.

Previously, 37 councillors voted to reject the plans, eight backed the airport while 10 abstained from voting.

In a baptism of fire, recently appointed managing director of Biggin Hill Jennifer Munro, had tried to reassure residents that the amended opening hours would solely be for the Olympics.

She said: “What we are dealing with here is a one-off. It would not set a precedent.”

However, neither the council nor residents were convinced.

Speaking after the decision, Chislehurst resident Brenda Claver, 69, said: “We were worried it would set a precedent. We are very pleased, it was the right decision.”

Addressing the alleged terrorism threat, Mr Carr said: “We recognise that the world is how it is but this is a complete exaggeration and is just nonsense.

“The airport and the police have been discussing over a period of time ways of improving security.

“There is a nimbyism amongst residents and amongst councillors themselves.”

He said residents must accept that changes will be made during the 108 years remaining on the 125-year lease signed between the council as owner and landlord and Biggin Hill Airport Limited as tenant in 1994.

Describing the contract as ‘weak’, he said he wanted to improve it for residents by encouraging the airport to use quieter, less polluting aircraft and to reduce the number of flights that it is allowed to accept each year.

It is currently operating at less than half of its 125,000 annual flight capacity and many fear it has the potential to become another Luton.

In return, Mr Carr said the council would consider revising the no fare-paying passenger clause within the contract.

MP for Orpington Jo Johnson said: “Fears of the airport’s expansion has been a matter of tremendous concern to my constituents – in particular the fear that any temporary change to the lease could be exploited by Biggin Hill through the courts to eventually seek a permanent revision of the lease.”

Amongst other concerns was the airport’s close proximity to the Princess Royal Hospital in Farnborough, with reports that doctors and nurses have to stop talking to patients as planes fly over.

Other councillors said Biggin Hill had made a weak business case and there would be no financial benefit to the borough.

Making his maiden speech, Darwin councillor Richard Scoates said his constituents would be most displeased by the increased flights while “sipping ginger beer in the garden after a day working in The City”.

Meanwhile Farnborough and Crofton councillor Robert Evans rejected the plans but claimed he had proved his commitment to the Olympics by purchasing tickets for the ladies’ volleyball.

Biggin Hill declined to comment after the meeting but is due to hold a press conference today to discuss the refusal. For an update see www.bromleytimes.co.uk.

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