Up­grade to ‘ex­tend the life of Northolt run­way’

£23M CON­TRACT AWARDED FOR MA­JOR RESURFACING PROJECT

Uxbridge Gazette - - News -

THE con­trac­tor who will resur­face the run­way at RAF Northolt as part of the site’s con­tro­ver­sial ren­o­va­tion project has now been cho­sen by the De­fence In­fra­struc­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DIO).

The £23 mil­lion con­tract for resurfacing work in­tended to “ex­tend the life of the run­way by 10 to 15 years” was awarded to La­gan Avi­a­tion & In­fra­struc­ture (LA&I), which has pre­vi­ously worked on other RAF bases.

This de­ci­sion is likely to spark re­newed op­po­si­tion from Stop Northolt, a cam­paign group that ar­gues the Hilling­don air­field’s ex­pen­sive ren­o­va­tion is an at­tempt to pre­pare it for an in­flux of com­mer­cial flights, ef­fec­tively cre­at­ing a “lit­tle Heathrow”.

RAF Northolt Sta­tion Com­man­der Cap­tain Mike Carver said: “Northolt is home to the last re­main­ing mil­i­tary air­field within the M25 and the fly­ing op­er­a­tions that take place here pro­vide a vi­tal con­tri­bu­tion for de­fence, wider government and the United King­dom.

“The run­way resurfacing works will as­sure those fly­ing op­er­a­tions for decades to come.”

The work will take an es­ti­mated six months to com­plete and the air­field will be closed from spring to au­tumn 2019 while the ren­o­va­tion takes place.

Dur­ing this time, mil­i­tary air­craft will in­stead fly from RAF Ben­son in south Ox­ford­shire and any civil­ian air­craft from other civil­ian air­ports.

RAF Northolt, home to 33 units from all three Armed Ser­vices and pro­vides trans­port for of­fi­cial busi­ness to the UK government and mil­i­tary lead­ers, also acts as a pri­vate air­port.

It ad­ver­tises it­self on­line as “Lon­don’s premier busi­ness avi­a­tion air­port”, al­though pri­vate flights only use “spare ca­pac­ity” and mil­i­tary use takes pri­or­ity, getwest­lon­don was told.

How­ever, cam­paign­ers from Stop Northolt be­lieve its clo­sure this year for im­prove­ments to the run­way is a ploy to se­cretly pre­pare it to re­ceive larger com­mer­cial planes, point­ing to the fact it has hosted around 12,000 non­mil­i­tary flights a year since 2013.

An RAF spokesman said: “Civil­ian com­mer­cial flights at RAF Northolt will con­tinue to utilise spare ca­pac­ity to en­sure we get the best re­turn for the tax­payer.

“The clo­sure of the air­field for ren­o­va­tion has no as­so­ci­a­tion with com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion.”

The spokesman also con­firmed that use of the air­field by pri­vate planes would re­sume when im­prove­ments were com­plete.

Fears were stoked last year by an ad­mis­sion from MP To­bias Ell­wood that RAF Northolt “will re­main un­der-utilised by the mil­i­tary for a large pro­por­tion of the time.”

Cam­paign­ers had there­fore asked why the government is spend­ing money up­grad­ing an air­field that is not fully utilised.

Tweets posted to the of­fi­cial Stop Northolt ac­count in Novem­ber 2017 read: “The run­way at East Mid­lands Air­port is al­most twice the size of the run­way at RAF Northolt and they both have as­phalt sur­faces.

Yet the run­way re­fur­bish­ment at East Mid­lands Air­port cost £14.8m in con­trast to the pro­posed £45m to be spent at RAF Northolt.

“Why are the works at RAF Northolt so much more ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing than other resurfacing projects?

“Un­til lo­cal res­i­dents get an­swers, we can only as­sume the air­port is be­ing pre­pared for more com­mer­cial flights.”

In De­cem­ber 2017, Boris John­son se­cured a government pledge to cap the num­ber of an­nual com­mer­cial flights from RAF Northolt at 12,000.

IM­AGE: COR­PO­RAL BEN TRITTA

Aerial view of RAF Northolt

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