Upgrade to ‘extend the life of Northolt runway’
£23M CONTRACT AWARDED FOR MAJOR RESURFACING PROJECT
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.
Aerial view of RAF Northolt