One of the UK’s leading Indian-origin hoteliers, Surinder Arora, on Tuesday welcomed Parliament’s go-ahead for the expansion of London’s Heathrow Airport but also called for an independent process to determine the best project to deliver it. At a crucial House of Commons vote yesterday, MPs approved controversial plans to build a third runway at the west London airport by 415 votes to 119. While the vote has been welcomed by businesses as a “historic decision”, environmental groups have concerns over its impact. The vote to build the runway at Europe’s busiest airport came after decades of bitter debate.
Arora, who had unveiled his own plans for the so-called “western hub” of the airport last month, welcomed the vote as a step in the right direction.”This stamp of approval from MPs for Heathrow expansion is a vital further step – but there now needs to be an independent process to determine who can best deliver each element of the expansion,” said the founder and chairman of the Arora Group. He stressed that his group’s plans to deliver the full extra capacity via a Westerly campus deliver significant cost savings and break the current monopoly at the airport, which “overcharges” airlines and passengers. “Costs must be kept down for the expansion to work and Heathrow’s track record should be a cause for concern,” Arora warned. The Punjab-born hotelier believes his plans, designed by architects Corgan, offer the best value for money, with an estimated cost for the airport expansion of around 14.4 billion pounds. The competing scheme, from the existing airport company Heathrow Airport Limited, reportedly comes in at around 31 billion pounds.
Arora said: “We are passionate about developing a Heathrow that delivers a truly world-leading experience; one that works for airlines; one that offers passengers a top-class journey; and one that has the commercial grounding to be a long-term success for the nation to take pride in.” The Arora Group, the largest landowner in the area marked for expansion, had announced its intention to bid for the rights to undertake development of the Heathrow expansion last year. The group is also locked in a battle with Heathrow Airport Limited for the right to build a multi-storey car park at the airport. The UK government has pledged the airport expansion will be undertaken at no cost to the taxpayer, will create 100,000 jobs and will benefit the entire country through guaranteed internal flights to the rest of the UK. Ministers also insist the project will have built-in environmental protections, with the ability to fine Heathrow or ground aircraft if promises on night flights and other contentious issues are broken.
The issue had earlier led to the resignation of international trade minister Greg Hands, who raised concerns about air quality and night flights on behalf of his constituents in west London who he said would be affected by the expansion. One of the other major opponents of Heathrow’s third runway, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was away on tour in Afghanistan to avoid a Commons clash over the issue. The parliamentary vote this week marks the first major step towards the finalisation of plans for the expansion of the UK’s major airport hub, which needs the additional runway in order to cope with growing demands of international air travel.