New Poll Reveals Voters Opposed To Commercial Flights At Northolt
- 68% of voters in Uxbridge and South Ruislip unaware of Northolt’s re-opening to commercial flights
- Of those who expressed a view, voters are opposed to the current Government policy of allowing 12,000 commercial flights a year at Northolt by 37% to 23%
- Of those who expressed a view, voters are also opposed to suggestions that there could be 20,000 – 50,000 commercial flights a year at Northolt by 44% to 21%
A new poll of voters in the constituency of Uxbridge & South Ruislip reveals widespread opposition to commercial flights at RAF Northolt, with the vast majority unaware even that the runway was about to re-open.
The runway closed earlier in the year for renovation work. It has re-opened to commercial flights on the 11th November 2019 during the General Election. There was no consultation with local residents.
Northolt has been steadily turning into a commercial airport in all but name, with private commercial flights vastly outnumbering military ones in recent years.
Ministers had previously promised no more than 7,000 commercial flights a year. They broke this promise in 2013 and increased it to 12,000 a year, without proper consultation.
A recent study commissioned by the Ministry of Defence suggested that Northolt could take up to 20,000 - 50,000 commercial flights in future, if modifications were made.
Basil O’Fee from the Regional and Business Airports Group, who commissioned the poll, said:
“Northolt is now a fully-fledged commercial airport, but without playing by the same rules as other civilian airports.This poll shows that residents don’t want tens of thousands of commercial flights on their doorstep. Yet they’ve never been given a say. Ministers have repeatedly broken their promises to cap the numbers. The MoD should immediately suspend commercial flights and carry out a proper process that takes account of noise and local air quality – just like any other civilian airport would have to. That process should assume the original starting point of 7,000 flights a year. ”
- The poll was commissioned by the Regional and Business Airports Group, who represent 35 smaller airports around the UK. A number of its members are directly impacted by Northolt turning into a commercial competitor without proper scrutiny and without having to meet any of the safety and regulatory requirements of civilian airports. Many other members are affected by the broader MoD policy of encouraging commercial use of military airfields, which was introduced without consultation or a proper analysis of the implications for other privately or publicly owned local airports across the country, that brought this about.
- The poll was conducted by Forefront Market Research. It was a telephone survey of 707 residents living in the constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. The fieldwork was conducted between 5th - 8th November 2019. Data collected in-line with age demographics of the constituency.
- Flight numbers at Northolt for 2017 and 2018, showing private commercial flights outnumbering military ones, can be found here and here.
- Ministers have previously admitted that increasing commercial flights to 20,000 a year would 'generate additional revenue' and 'benefit taxpayers'. Tobias Ellwood admitted that "Further consideration" was given to the option of increasing the number of commercial flights at RAF Northolt to 20,000 a year, saying: "Further consideration was given to one Project Ark option that had the potential to increase civil use of the military aerodrome to up to 20,000 movements, to generate additional revenue from the under-utilised spare capacity. That, in turn, would benefit taxpayers by offsetting the costs to the taxpaying public of the station’s military operation" (Hansard, Westminster Hall Debate, 13 September 2017, link)
- An MoD commissioned report to explore ‘a range of options for the future development of RAF Northolt,’ stated that one option was for 50,000 commercial flights a year, ‘allowing more operations by larger aircraft’ [Project Ark, 1.1, Option 3, p.1, link]