Biggin Hill Airport noise action plan (NAP) review

Published Friday, 14 January 2022

The following questions and answers are designed to aid understanding of the process the council is following before it formally responds to Biggin Hill Airport’s review of the noise action plan (NAP)

Following the Executive meeting in January, the Council is asking Biggin Hill Airport to provide an updated review of their noise action plan.

The following questions and answers were designed to aid understanding of the process the council was following before it formally responded to Biggin Hill Airport’s review of the noise action plan (NAP).

Full details of what was considered by the council is contained within the report to the Executive and interested residents are advised to read the report in detail for a full understanding. The decision made by the Executive is covered in a news release that can also be read.
 

When will the council consider its response to the airport’s NAP review?

The council’s response will be scrutinised at the Executive, Resources and Contracts Policy Development Committee on 5 January followed by a decision being made at the Executive Committee on 12 January.

It is hoped that that the public gallery will be open at both meetings to enable members of the public to attend and listen to proceedings should they wish to do so, albeit the council is closely watching for possible Covid related announcements from  the government, which may not make this possible.

Is the noise action plan review a new proposal from Biggin Hill Airport?

No, the noise action plan review is not a new proposal. When the NAP was agreed by Bromley Council, it contained the commitment that it would be reviewed every five years.

The deed of variation, which appended the NAP to the lease Biggin Hill Airport holds with the council, was signed in the summer of 2016. As such, the review was due in the summer of 2021.

Biggin Hill Airport provided the council with a review of the NAP in the summer of 2021. The ERC PDS and Executive Committees are now about to consider the council’s formal response to the review. In preparing to do this, professional advice from independent acoustic, aviation and legal experts has been sought to inform their decision.

Is there a public consultation about the NAP review?

The council is considering its own response to the Airport’s NAP review. In doing this, the council is taking into account the feedback received from residents and residents’ groups, both since the signing of the NAP and in recent weeks in relation to the review. The council has also sought expert opinion from independent advisors.

In the five years of the NAP, the council has sat on committees where these concerns have been discussed, liaised with residents about these concerns and raised issues with the airport that has led to change. This continues irrespective of the NAP review.

While preparing the Executive report, the council also received a report from residents’ group Flightpath Watch, detailing their views on numerous issues. The council undertook a thorough and diligent review of the Flightpath Watch report, including taking independent advice from legal counsel, as requested by Flightpath Watch.

A user-friendly table setting out the response to the key issues raised by Flightpath Watch is included in the Executive report. A more detailed response is included as an attachment.

Why did the council not share Flightpath Watch’s report with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)?

The council contacted the CAA and other independent experts to help inform its opinion about the airport’s NAP review. The council received Flightpath Watch’s report after the terms for the report by the CAA had been agreed. As such, this document was not available for those consultants. The council has however consulted independent legal counsel about the issues raised in the Flightpath Watch report.

What is the legal position in respect of 50,000 movements versus 125,000 movements?

The only legally binding cap on movements is the 125,000 flights limit in the main lease granted to BHAL. As part of the NAP the council agreed to increase the operating hours and Biggin Hill Airport Limited (BHAL) agreed that they would not exceed 50,000 flight movements during the first five years of the NAP.

What is the legal position in respect of the proposal by the airport to increase movements from 50,000 to 54,750?

There is currently no proposal by BHAL to increase movements. However, BHAL is required to provide a movement projection every five years under the NAP. The figure of 54,750 is that projection.

The council may object to any increase in flight movements that breach the terms of the NAP or lease. However, any objection must be based on good reasons. The lease, or an agreement under the lease, allows tenants to request to vary terms and these requests cannot be unreasonably withheld or delayed. Neither party can make a change to the lease unilaterally.

Is it true that there has been over 50,000 movements in any given year at Biggin Hill Airport since the noise action plan was introduced?

In 2016 and 2017, as stated in Biggin Hill Airport’s NAP Review, the airport recorded 50,891 and 50,060 movements. These numbers reflect a period of time before the extended hours had been implemented at the airport. As such, the hours could not have been suspended while the commitments of the NAP were reviewed.  Since the airport’s extended hours have been operational in May 2017, the benchmark of 50,000 movements has not been passed in any single year. 

Is the council legally entitled to rescind the longer hours granted in 2015 if BHAL do not meet certain conditions imposed at that time?

In theory, yes. But if there are breaches of the lease then the council, in its capacity as BHAL’s landlord, has to follow a process before rescinding, for example, allow the tenant to amend, ameliorate or make good. If there is no agreement, then this will lead to arbitration. This process is in effect being followed and it is being recommended to members that this continues. The BHAL NAP review, the RSK group acoustic report, the CAA report and the Flightpath Watch report have been considered by officers who are asking for authorisation to work in association with BHAL to take appropriate recommendations forward and ensure all conditions of the NAP are, and continue to be, met.

Will the Permitted User Clause be part of this discussion?

No. The subject of the Permitted User Clause, which was brought to the Executive in May 2021, is not included within the scope of this report that is solely concerned with the review of the noise action plan.

What will happen following the Executive meeting?

This is dependent on the decision made by the Executive. Whatever decision is made at the Executive Committee, the council will continue to work to minimise noise disruption for Bromley residents while also supporting a successful business at Biggin Hill Airport.