Mayor Sadiq Khan has been urged to support calls to suspend commercial flights operating out of RAF Northolt until a public consultation is held on the facility’s use.
Although it remains a military airport, Northolt is also used by private flights and is marketed as “London’s VIP airport” and as offering the “perfect solution for those seeking quick, discreet and secure departure and entry into the UK.”
The airport recently had a £23m upgrade, including a resurfaced runway, which RAF bosses said would secure “military flying operations at RAF Northolt for decades to come.”
Northolt’s status as a military facility means it’s exempt from the same planning and consultation requirements that govern commercial airports.
The airport is located in the constituency of former mayor Boris Johnson who in 2017 wrote to constituents assuring them that a 12,000 annual cap in the number of commercial flights “will stay in place and that flights by scheduled airlines will remain prohibited.”
However some local residents and politicians are concerned that the overtly commercial marketing of the facility and the improved facilities could see the cap lifted without airport bosses consulting communities who would be affected by any increase in noise levels.
London Assembly members have urged Mr Khan to back a suspension of commercial flights and to write to local MPs seeking their support.
Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon said: “RAF Northolt’s £23 million runway renovation and rebranding as “London’s VIP Airport” clearly shows an intention to transform Northolt into a commercial airport.
“It is time for those who run the airport to come clean with residents. They should reveal their plans and undergo the same assessments and public consultation that any other commercial airport would be required to do. Until then all commercial flights should be suspended.
“Hiding behind the lack of accountability facing a military airport is not acceptable. A commercial airport should not come about by stealth.”
Labour’s Dr Onkar Sahota added: “We simply cannot allow RAF Northolt becoming a commercial airport without the adequate engagement and consultation of neighbouring residents and business owners.
“After the recent and controversial multi-million-pound runway renovation, pushing ahead with these plans without inviting proper public scrutiny would be an act of flying in the face of local democracy.
“This is why we are urging the Mayor to use his influence to intervene, vocally oppose commercial flights at the airport and urgently raise this matter with the Aviation Minister and local MPs in the area.”