The Civil Aviation Authority has no duty to consult residents when considering proposed helicopter operations, DETR minister Lord Whitty told peers yesterday.
Replying to Baroness Gardner of Parkes, he said: 'The Civil Aviation Authority will consider all aspects of proposed helicopter operations, including helicopter type and capabilities, pilot experience and the level of rescue and firefighting services available. It is not required to consult with local residents.
'However, the CAA is aware of the interest to residents of helicopters wishing to overfly London and therefore attach extra conditions to the permission to fly. These can include restricting the operations and movement of the helicopters. The local authority also has an interest in respect of planning permission.
'Do not the divisions of responsibility between the CAA, the local authority and the DETR leave possible gaps in control and as regards consultation with local people?', she asked.
Lord Whitty said of the Harrods' site that a licence was granted last December to operate a maximum of 10 flights a year. 'That licence was based on safety standards and the frequency stipulated. As far as the CAA is aware that has not been exerted apart from testing flights and therefore the CAA has not received any representations. Matters of noise and disturbance are primarily matters for the local authority, as in other noise situations'.
He told Lord Strabolgi that, although there was a heliport in Wandsworth, the majority of flights over central London related to police and military movements. Very few building-top landing sites were licensed in central London.
The Earl of Lauderdale and Baronness Gardner said Harrods had made an application for a certificate of lawful proposed use, which had been refused by Kensington and Chelsea LBC.
She disagreed with the minister, who uderstood the council had received an informal approach about planning permission, saying the borough had made clear it was an application for lawful use which had been refused.
'The applicant is now entitled to lodge an appeal against that decision. But as I understand it, if the council had issue that certificate, there would have been no opportunity at all for local residents to make known their views. We were informed that views could not be considered as it was not a planning application but it was for a 'certificate of lawful proposed use'. The minister said that the CAA does not have to consult anyone. If the certificate had been issued, there would have been no consultation whatever'.
Lord Whitty responed: 'I suspect the noble baroness has a point here but, of course, the responsibility of the borough of Kensington and Chelsea was to see whether wider planning considerations would apply. I assume, although it is a matter for the authority, that that was one reason for the refusal and why it is now considering whether full planning permission is required'.
If the planning permission procedure was followed, then appeal to the secretary of state would be available.