A brief explanation of Biggin Hill….part three

14. THE CIVIL AIRPORT: Since 1961 first Surrey Aviation and then the London Borough of Bromley
who had bought the airfield in 1973, have operated the airfield as a general aviation (GA) airport and have sought to protect the local environment, while recognising that the Airfield had existed since 1917.
During the time that I served as Councillor for the Biggin Hill Ward (1978 – 1994); the Council wished to be more directly involved in the running of the Airport as it sought to reduce the Rate Fund Subsidy (The cost to the Council of running the Airport).
Obviously the Council didn’t have the expert professionalism to take on the day to day running of a busy Airport, initially Surrey Aviation was to be the Council’s Partner, with Jock Maitland. Being the Managing Director whilst Cllr Denis Barkway was appointed as the Chairman of the Board. I and one other Councillor made-up the Council’s side of the Board whilst Jock Maitland and two Aviation experts made-up the Surrey Aviation side of the Board.
Early in the 1980’s Jock Maitland informed the Council of his intention to retire, he was happy to continue for a while, but wished the Council to start the process of finding a new Partner and the Council started the process of finding a new partner with the necessary expertise.
Following a tendering process a suitable Partner was found, this was Airports UK, a subsidiary of BAA (British Airports Authority). The new Managing Director was ‘Crash’ Amos, who in spite of his nickname, proved to be a good Managing Director and the Council’s requirement to reduce the Rate Fund Subsidy was gradually being achieved.
In 1992 the Government ‘Designated’ the airport, following Biggin Hill Airport Ltd., having produced a turn-over in excess of £1 million for two successive years. Designation required the Council to set up an arms-length company to run the Airport on its behalf. The Council could either sell the Airport outright or sell it on a long lease, whereby the Council would retain the Landlords role. At this time the Council set up a Shadow Board to monitor the operation of the Airport. I was appointed Chairman of this Shadow Board.
During the late 1990’s Airports UK sort to extract themselves from the 25 year lease that they had with
the London Borough of Bromley. At this stage Regional Airports Limited (RAL) expressed an interest in obtaining an 125 year lease on the airport, negotiations were entered into and on 5th May 1994 RAL took over the running of the airport. They also acquired the name ‘Biggin Hill Airport Limited’ from the former company.
15. GOVERNMENT AIRPORT POLICY 1: In 1978 a Government White Paper ‘Airport Policy’ (Cmnd.7084) identified Biggin Hill as the airport best able to meet the needs of general
aviation traffic, particularly executive jets which could no longer be guaranteed airspace at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. However as a result of the need to reorganise the London TMA, the airport was unable to obtain the necessary ‘airways slots’ in sufficient numbers and only a slight increase in executive jet traffic resulted.
16. GOVERNMENT AIRPORT POLICY 2: In 1988 a further Government White Paper ‘Airport Policy’ (Cmnd.9542) again identified Biggin Hill as one of a number of airports around London which “would have important roles to play in meeting the expected increase in demand in the London area”.
17. GOVERNMENT AIRPORT POLICY 3: Late in 1990 the Minister for Aviation, on the occasion of his visiting Biggin Hill Airport said; “As 1992 approaches, it is vitally important that businesses can fly their own aircraft into and out of well-equipped and well-run airports. Heathrow and Gatwick just don’t have the room to meet the growing demand for corporate aircraft. We must look to smaller airports around London to make sure that UK businessmen are able to make the most of the new European business opportunities. It is clear that Biggin Hill can offer the quality of service that firms need”.
18. AIRPORT OPERATING AGREEMENT: Biggin Hill Airport endeavours to achieve its growing GA roll whilst protecting the local environment by means of controlling the types of aircraft that can operate there, plus the use of controlled airspace. There have been two previous Operating Agreements which have sought to control the overall numbers and types of aircraft which may use the airport by means of (i) Applying an overall weight restriction with specific exclusions for those types of aircraft meeting a stringent noise criteria, predominantly aircraft using modem fanjets; and (ii) by restricting the total number of aircraft movements to 125,000 per year, a movement being a take off or landing.
18. AIRPORT OPERATING AGREEMENT CHANGES: In July 1988, Airports UK were granted a 25 year operating agreement to run the airport on behalf of Bromley Council initially and following “designation’ (1st July 1993) by Biggin Hill Airport Limited. The terms of the Operating Agreement were reviewed (April – August 1991) when a number of changes were proposed and agreed by the Full Council of the London Borough of Bromley, these
(i)    Allowing limited ‘Scheduled Flights’
(ii)  The removal of restrictions on the number of based helicopter movements within the overall total of 125,000. per annum. Previously helicopters, whether visiting or based on the airport had been limited to an annual total of 1,200 movements.
(iii) Based aircraft may depart up to one hour before the 07.30 normal opening hours, by prior consent.
(iv)   Incoming aircraft may land up to 22.00 hours.
(v)   The lifting of the restriction on the total number of jet movements within the overall number of movements per year.
The Council hoped that all these changes could be achieved whilst still protecting the environment as far as possible, consistent with its long established aims for the Airfield.
By early 1993 Airports UK, a subsidiary of British Airport Authority (BAA) had to all intents and purposes withdrawn from the business of running large airports . BAA was wishing to concentrate on its core business of running large airports in the UK and overseas.
By this time Biggin Hill Airport was the sole remaining small airport on the books of Airports UK/BAA and they were looking for a way of withdrawing from the 25 year lease. It was at this time that Regional Airport Limited (RAL), who had previously shown some interest in acquiring Biggin Hill Airport, entered into negotiations with Bromley Council to purchase the airport on a long lease, terms were agreed and RAL took over the running of the airport on the 5th May 1994.
One matter that was to prove a bone of contention between the London Borough of Bromley and Regional Airports Limited was the dropping of the limited use of Scheduled Flights. Up till 1994 `Love Air’ had been able to sell tickets for flights between Biggin Hill and Le Touquet Airport in France. This operation and any similar Scheduled Services stopped with the terms of the new lease.
Over the period leading up to 2014, Biggin Hill Airport Ltd has continued to develop it’s core business of providing what may be seen as The Rolls Royce of service for Business Aviation. A service that was
used extensively during both the 2012 Olympic Games and the Para Olympic Games. Currently the
Airport has been chosen to be an Outer London Development Centre, operating under the name
‘Locate’. There is considerable scope for employment growth which will benefit the Local Community.
20. AIRPORT CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE: There is a strong ‘Airport Consultative Committee’ made up from representatives of the Airport Company (1member), Airport Users (1 member), Flying Clubs (1
member), plus the surrounding Local Authorities of Kent County Council (1 member), Surrey County
Council (1 member), Tandridge District Council (1 member), Sevenoaks District Council (1 member),
Bromley Council (4 members) and the Federation of Bromley Resident Associations (3. members plus 1
member from Biggin Hill & District RA). This committee which has an independent Chairman and
Vice-Chairman, is a forum for discussion on the way the airport is run. The various bodies or groups elect their representatives to serve on the Committee.
Part of the business of the Airport Consultative Committee is to consider complaints raised by the public and the response of the Airport Management.