Two apartments blocks (no surprise), a hotel (okay, still not shocked) - but within, or rather on top of, the hotel a dedicated helicopter passenger check-in served by its own lift, topped off by an air traffic control centre with views of approaching aircraft and an overhead vista of all aircraft movements on the apron?
This is not just a vision. Bob Weston, the new owner of Battersea Heliport, London’s only city centre dedicated heliport showed me the plans he has already submitted to the local authority, Wandsworth Council, for the development of the site along these grounds.
If planning permission is granted in the six months or so it will take for the decision to be made, Weston’s construction teams will descend on the site and start building.
“All along, we have had no intention of shutting it (Battersea) down,” claims Weston. “I can understand why people think ‘what is an Essex property developer doing buying an aviation business?’ and I will probably lose money doing it but its part of a bigger global picture.”
In the short term, Weston Aviation has got its CAA license and Weston intends to spend £60,000 on re-laying the heliport's apron.
Weston says that there are a number of good reasons why the move makes sense. “It’s the result of a sequence of events that leads you to an end place and we have bought a monopoly in central London.”
But Weston’s reasons for the purchase could be deeper than they first appear. In buying the heliport next to the land he intends to develop, he has sole control over the entire site. He wants to keep the construction project clearly apart from the aviation aspects, at least where dealings with the local authority are concerned. But as the entire site owner, objection handling and problem solving between him, potential customers and the local community should be easier. And as he says, although he intends to fully redevelop the heliport, he may not remain the owner when the builders finally go away.
“Once the hotel is built and the development up and running, would we continue to run it as a heliport or will we sell it on into the industry? I don’t know. Selling it on is a possibility because as the end of the day it is a business. If we establish other interests in aviation then we probably wouldn’t sell it on.”
There was a helipad on a barge near the City about 12-15 years ago. If I remember correctly, the theory was that, by periodically changing position, no planning permission would be required. Predictably, the noise lobby came out in force and it was stopped from operating.
You're right that it shouldn't upset too many people but, unfortunately, it does. The number of people living along the River and affected by helicopter noise is relatively small, but that doesn't stop noise protestors who live more than a mile away influencing the local authorities' decisions. My own borough, Kensington & Chelsea, is a classic example.
The three relevant local authorities on the North side are K&C, Westminster and the City of London - each of which has some influential people either living or working locally. I doubt if either of the two main political parties would help - supporting helicopter ops isn't exactly a vote winner.
If Battersea closes, I suspect the chances of another heliport in or near Central London are pretty slim.
(Edit) I also have a vague recollection of reading that there was a pontoon on the Thames (near Lambeth Bridge?) in the 1950's. I don't know what happened to that.
Last edited by Flying Lawyer; 23rd Feb 2004 at 09:10.
The "variable location" idea was mooted, but the City Heliport never did move its location - and when the adjacent site on the north bank was developed, the temporary planning permission went with it. The City of London school is on that site today. The City HP was capable of taking everything up to S76s.
Star Aviation had their own facility with two barges each with two decks, and was on the south bank, just west of Southwark bridge prior to the buildings there being developed. Those barges were capable of 206s only as I recall - it predated Star's AS355F2 anyway, and I visited once when 206s occupied three of the four pads.
Various other sites have been tried, including a BEA Helicopters S-55 operating from the South Bank, possibly from Jubilee Gardens - perhaps this was FL's one in the Lambeth area - it's not that far from Lambeth Palace!
Noise trials were also run in the late 80s with a 76 and a barge on the south bank approx 0.5 miles E of Tower Bridge - from memory that was known as "Chamber St Heliport", but nothing came of it.
Another idea had a HP on top of Cannon Street Station - not sure why that failed, but it seemed sensible to try and beat the NIMBYs by putting two noise sources together
Then there is Medina Aviation operating out of Battersea Power Station site, but presumably that holds just as long as the site remains in its current state only - and is, of course, not ideally located for the City customers.
Now, here's an idea.... Given that they are trying to find uses for the Millenium Dome site, and it has good tube connections, why hasn't someone thought of that? Is the south bank location really that bad?
What about an aviation industry lobby to get helicopters allowed at the City Airport?
Even if you were lucky enough to get noisy helicopters into LCY, the opening times are set in concrete and I would say IMPOSSIBLE to move. (closing at 1230 on a Saturday until Sunday lunchtime won't help Mr Chelski!)
They still get 100's of noise complaints from their fixed wing stuff....
Ladies and Gentlemen this is called 'progress'. The dinosaurs reigned for millions of years. The helicopter will also become extinct. Until then the wonderful facility of door to door transport will be slowly and surely be under threat by citizens who prize peace and quiet over other peoples convenience. However I can see a resurgence in helicopter flight as the road system in London comes under the same threat. Once there is 100% gridlock then some bright spark in the government will suggest that helicopters be the way of saving the nations commerce and he/she will be praised and knighted for thinking up such a radical method of transportation.
Don't dispare as market forces have a way of seeing sense in all this anti helicopter thing.
I have limited knowledge on helicopters as i am off to start my traing soon, but am a property developer and therefore can shed some light on noise regs and planning etc..., the following may may be of interest...
the doe have recently introduced a new building regulation called part e, this is to do with controlling noise etc in new dwellings. If this chap has lodged a planning app for flats and a hotel they will have to be built to comply to part e, which means the developer will have to take into account the existing use of the heli pad and provide suitable sound insulation to the units. This is to protect the new residents and the existing commercial operations.
I would be most supprised if they were able to satisfy the new regs, and would therefore either, not get planning or have to close the heli pad so that it was not an issue...
My personal view on getting a consent for a new pad, is it would be almost imposible, current allowed levels of sound from new commercial sites, woorkshops, factorys etc is aprox 80db, a passing bus makes more than that!
The only chance would be on top of a tall building in central london.
A BHAB study during the 1990s identified seven first-class sites for heliports along the Thames, from Gallions Point at the east end of LCY up to Battersea, and yes, one of them was next to the Millenium Dome. But there are no votes in granting permission for helipads.
when I visited the dome site (to use the underground on the day Concorde crashed ) I noticed a helipad marked out inside a fenced area just in front of the dome. Large white circle with a H painted inside. Wondered who it was for, and whether it could be used for a private flight to the dome, but never got the chance to find out. Seems like a good use of the area to me to create a heliport there.