RAF Northolt

MQT on 2017-07-13
Session date: 
July 13, 2017
Question By: 
David Kurten
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


To ask the Mayor what representations he has made to the Secretary of State for Defence, or the Civil Aviation Authority about the fact that RAF Northolt has been stealthily increasing the volume of its commercial flights over recent years, so that now, most flights are non-military. The Ministry of Defence has successfully used the airbase's military status to allow 12,000 commercial flights a year, whilst carefully avoiding any meaningful public consultation on what is essentially, a change of use. With airlines like FlyBe openly lobbying for access to Northolt, local residents are concerned that this airbase is set to become another Luton by the back door and effectively, Heathrow's fourth runway.


Answer for RAF Northolt

Answer for RAF Northolt

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you.  I should make clear that I would be firmly against any increase in commercial flights at RAF Northolt.  The Government has announced that RAF Northolt will close for some months in 2018 to undertake improvements to the runway and to extend its life.  Assembly Member Shah wrote to me about this last month.


I am not aware of any proposals to expand the number of commercial flights from the airbase.  I understand the airline FlyBe has published proposals to operate commercial scheduled flights, but I am informed this has not received any official backing, nor is it being taken forward.  My formal powers in relation to the RAF base are very limited, but I will of course monitor the situation and if it becomes clear that an increase in commercial flights is being progressed, I would raise both my concerns and that of local people, as was raised to me by Assembly Member Shah and now yourself, at the highest levels of Government.  I will continue to actually protect the interests of Londoners regarding possible aviation expansion.


David Kurten AM:  Yes, great.  Thank you for your answer and I appreciate your concerns.  According to my information, there are now 12,000 commercial flights a year going out of RAF Northolt.  What do you think of that number?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The number I have, you are right, it currently accommodates 12,000 business aircraft movements per year in the London area, placing it beyond Luton, Farnborough and Biggin Hill.  I understand why residents are concerned.  It is supposed to be a military airfield and so, if there were plans for there to be an increase in the amount of flights, of course I would listen to what is being said by Assembly Members and local residents and make our views well known to the Government.


David Kurten AM:  The other figure I have is that over 70% of the flights leaving from RAF Northolt now are non-military.  What do you think of that figure?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I have very little power in relation to the status quo.  What I can do is lobby and impact in relation to any changes they make.  My current position, like I said in my answer, I would not support any increase in commercial activities from the airbase.  We do need the airbase there, the military need the airbase there, it provides an important function, but clearly if the Ministry of Defence (MoD) or somebody else was to come forward with plans to increase air flight capacity in that part of London, I take on board the concerns raised by Assembly Members and residents and I object to that.


David Kurten AM:  Yes.  I absolutely agree that we need a military airbase.  Some of them have closed down in the country and there are far too few, in my opinion, but the concerns that local residents have is that there is a possible change of use.  It seems to have already happened in some circumstances in this way without actually being official.  Do you think there should be a public consultation on what has happened or possible future plans?  Do you think that is a good idea?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  If there were future plans, if there was a change of course there would need to be consultation, but some of the reasons why residents are concerned is because of FlyBe lobbying to operate scheduled domestic flights from the airbase, suggesting it could be an overspill until the Heathrow expansion happens.  As you know, I am against the Heathrow expansion as well.  I am not against Heathrow, but against the expansion.  Any plans to move from where we are would demand public consultation and I can assure you that I would listen to you, Assembly Member Shah, and others in relation to our response.


David Kurten AM:  Yes, great.  It is just that the residents are concerned.  Joining the dots together, you see the change in use, the percentage of business and commercial aircraft going up.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I can see that.


David Kurten AM:  Then FlyBe is making these noises and so I appreciate your answer and it is something that we need to keep a very close eye on.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Absolutely.


David Kurten AM:  You are committed to do that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes.


David Kurten AM:  Thank you.


Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  Mr Mayor, Northolt is in my constituency and I want to express my concerns also.  I am really reassured by the fact that you will ensure there is public consultation should there be any changes to this commercial use of this airport.  Thank you very much.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you.