“Stop Northolt” concerned Hillingdon Council not giving residents enough information on Northolt expansion
Local group, “Stop Northolt”, aiming to end commercial flights at RAF Northolt, is furious with Hillingdon Council for what it considers one-sided coverage of the issue. Stop Northolt say the council’s own magazine, Hillingdon People (delivered 6 times per year to every home in the borough) featured an article about a Parliamentary debate on the Government’s plans to spend £45m renovating RAF Northolt. In the debate, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said the Government had considered increasing commercial flights and indicated that expansion would benefit taxpayers. But the Hillingdon People article fails to include the minister’s concession that RAF Northolt would remain under-used by the military. ie. why is so much money being spent on renovations of the airfield? Stop Northolt is very concerned that the 10,000 commercial flights per year using Northolt are about to increase. They say the Government has admitted there is no military demand, “so this can only be to improve facilities for commercial flights, and they wouldn’t spend that much money without wanting to get it back.” Hillingdon had not pointed this out, or the problem of increasing numbers of commercial flights. Stop Northolt was set up in April 2017, following an announcement that the MoD plans to close the airport for 8 months in 2018 to upgrade and strengthen the runway.
Selective facts fed to voters by Hillingdon Council, says Stop Northolt group
16th November (Hillingdon & Uxbridge Times)
A PROTEST group – Stop Northolt – aiming to end commercial flights at RAF Northolt is furious with Hillingdon Council for what it considers one-sided coverage of the issue.
Stop Northolt’s anger is directed at the council’s own magazine, Hillingdon People, which is delivered six times a year to every home in the borough.
The latest edition features coverage of a Parliamentary debate on the Government’s plans to spend £45m renovating RAF Northolt.
In the debate, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said the Government had considered increasing commercial flights and indicated that expansion would benefit taxpayers.The article, say protesters, fails to include the minister’s concession that RAF Northolt would remain under-used by the military.
It’s a comment which has raised suspicion about why the Government is spending £45m on renovating the airfield.
Anna Williams, of Stop Northolt, said: “The article selectively quotes from a speech in Parliament, hoping that nobody would check and call them out on it.
“Three thousand people across West London are rightly concerned that the 10,000 commercial flights a year at Northolt are about to increase.
“They’ve admitted there’s no military demand, so this can only be to improve facilities for commercial flights, and they wouldn’t spend that much money without wanting to get it back.”
She said the magazine had failed to remain objective and even-handed in its reporting on the RAF Northolt debate.
Whitehall has been waging war on council publications, nicknamed the Pravda Press, for several years. Its code of practice says they should not be issued more than quarterly.
Cllr Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon Borough Council, has insisted the borough’s magazine will continue to be published six times a year ‘to keep residents informed’.
Stop Northolt was established following an announcement in April that the MoD plans to close the airport for eight months in 2018 and spend £45m on upgrading and strengthening the runway.
It claims to be a cross-party alliance of politicians and other groups who want proper scrutiny of the airport and a proper say for people on the airport’s future.
Local MP, Gareth Thomas, says RAF Northolt is becoming a commercial airport ‘in all but name’
Labour MP Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) says military base, Northolt Airport, in west London near Heathrow is hosting 10,000 passenger flights a year and this number could quintuple. It is used by many VIP passenger flights and by the royal family. It is not supposed to be a commercial airport, but it seems to have become one “by stealth” and it is “increasingly apparent that it is a commercial airport in all but name”, with military status used “as a smokescreen”. While it is a military airfield, the number of commercial flights has dramatically increased in recent years. The number of passenger journeys, mostly involving VIP jets, dwarfs the 3,800 military flights. In a report commissioned by the Ministry of Defence, consultants suggested increasing the number of commercial flights to 50,000 a year, with the regional airline Flybe among those campaigning for commercial passenger flights to start operating there. Local residents had not been consulted over further changes including the proposed increase to 50,000. Some enthusiasts for Northolt hope it could become “an alternative to London City airport” for regional flights with up to 100 seats and a “key access airport” for Heathrow. It is unsuitable for larger planes. Gareth Thomas said the number of flights was already having a major impact on local people’s quality of life, including noise pollution, poor air quality and concerns about safety.
Heathrow funded report suggests using RAF Northolt as an interim 3rd runway for domestic flights
Heathrow airport set up and funds a body called the “National Connectivity Task Force” (NCTF). This produced a report in March, looking at regional connectivity – and putting arguments that suit Heathrow. (Gatwick airport, unsurprisingly strongly disagrees with it). As well as saying how important links to regional airports are from Heathrow, though these have progressively been cut as long haul flights are more profitable, the NCTF report says RAF Northolt airport, just a few miles north of Heathrow, should be used as an extension to Heathrow, for smaller planes to regional airports. As this news broke about the same time as the Germanwings plane tragedy, it did not get press attention. What Heathrow wants is to have Northolt brought into service, as an interim measure, before it can get a new runway. If Gatwick was chosen for a runway, Heathrow could use Northolt for domestic flights it has been promising regional airports, in order to get their backing for a Heathrow runway. Heathrow says the Northolt runway could not be used at the same time as a Heathrow north-west runway. RAF Northolt does not comply with the safety standards required for a civilian airport. Its runway ends just short of the busy A40.
Residents fight against ‘noisy neighbour’ RAF Northolt over changed flight path
South Ruislip residents are desperately calling on recently-elected MP Boris Johnson to get RAF Northolt to stop allowing planes to fly over their houses. A local resident has collected over 520 signatures,asking that the planes and helicopters stick to the designated flight path. People know for certain that aircraft are flying over areas they did not fly over before. RAF Northolt is said to use one runway with a designated flight path but residents who signed the petition regularly see planes taking off over their houses. In 2013, the decision to keep RAF Northolt as a military airfield included an instruction from defence ministers that it should aim to increase its revenue from commercial aircraft. The increase was set to rise from 7,000 flight movements, taking off or landing, to 12,000 a year. But an RAF spokesman admitted: “Military and government movements are uncapped but expect to remain constant with the total number of movements in 2016 not expecting to exceed 17,500.” Not the 12,000. John Stewart (HACAN) said the “flight paths seem to have changed without any thought of the impact of local communities.” Residents say they have not been listened to by Northolt in the past and a letter to them was “dumped in the bin.” They hope Boris will step in and do something.