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LEGAL STUMBLING BLOCK TO BIGGIN HILL AIRPORT UPGRADE PLANS

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Three of the country's top judges put a major legal stumbling block in the way of plans to upgrade Kent's famous Bi...
Three of the country's top judges put a major legal stumbling block in the way of plans to upgrade Kent's famous Biggin Hill World War II fighter base into a major executive airport.
On Wednesday, the Appeal judges over-turned a High Court ruling in which the green light had been given for the up-grading plans by Biggin Hill Airport Ltd.
They allowed an appeal by Bromley LBC against aspects of the scheme which involved introduction of scheduled flights from the airport.
Now lawyers for the company are considering their next move. Leave to appeal to the House of Lords was refused but it is still open to the company to renew its application for leave direct to the law lords.
The case centred on the legal interpretation of the meaning of the term 'business aviation'. The company, which has already invested£4m on the scheme to make
Biggin Hill a luxury terminal for business passengers claimed that the term, used in the lease of the airport, permitted scheduled flights for business purposes.
However, Bromley LBC argued it did not. Now the Appeal judges have backed the Council's view.
Lady Justice Arden said today: 'In my judgment, the interpretation of 'business aviation' advanced by Bromley is to be preferred, namely that it means the operation of aircraft owned or chartered by a company or other business, and undertaken for business purposes, provided individual fair-paying passengers are not accepted. I also include air taxis and helicopters within 'business aviation'.'
The ruling means that while for instance company owned planes would be able to use the airport, scheduled flights targeted at the business rather than private and holiday market would not.
The airport company had argued that chartered and scheduled flights were permissible so long as their primary purpose is to transport passengers to recognised business destinations for business purposes.
In the High Court the judge ruled that the terms of the lease were wide enough to allow chartered and scheduled services for customers travelling for the 'predominant purpose' of their employment or business.
The plan has been to make Biggin Hill London's premier executive airport. The airport company took a 125-year lease on the site in 1994 and has spent£525,000 on a new terminal. The runway has also been refurbished and considerable sums spent on air traffic control and emergency facilities.
It was anticipated that by the year 2003, the airport would handle more than 8,000 charter and scheduled flights each year, carrying more than 80,000 passengers.
However, the proposals to the airport this new lease of life were opposed by the Council, which owns the site and which fears among other things that the scheme will result in unacceptable noise levels.
STRAND NEWS SERVICE
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