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19th Apr 2001, 15:59
Terminal 5 costs 320m to plan

Special report: transport in Britain

Keith Harper, transport editor Thursday April 19, 2001 The Guardian

BAA, the airports operator, has spent 320m on preparatory work for the 2bn Terminal 5 development at Heathrow although the government has not officially approved the project.

The company last night confirmed that it has had to spend "significant sums of money at its own risk to be in a position to start building T5 as soon as a decision is made". BAA plans to complete the project by 2007. It denied that it had "jumped the gun" but said that failure to plan ahead would have added at least another two or three years to a "vital" project.

Of the total, 100m is being spent on a road tunnel linking Heathrow's central area to the western side of the airport, where T5 is to be built. It has been under construction for several months.

The government has been sitting on the T5 report after receiving it at the end of last year following one of Britain's longest running planning inquiries.

The government has approved the terminal but has delayed the announcement until after the election because of the politically sensitive nature of the report and the impact it could have on voters round Heathrow.

The report has recommended that T5 goes ahead but with restrictions on night flying and passenger numbers.

BAA said that planning permission for the new tunnel had been given regardless of T5. But the T5 proposals showed that there was a need for a tunnel to provide access from the central area to the western side.

A spokesman said that the tunnel will allow it to make more effective use of stands. "Currently, any vehicles servicing these aircraft stands must cross a live taxiway causing significant disruption to the operation," he added.

Part of the expenditure has gone on demolishing a few houses near the planned terminal, which is due to be built on the site of sewage works owned by Thames Water. The plant is still operating, but it is gradually being decommissioned. BAA said the house owners had been well compensated and left with no ill feeling.

The company said it had told them that it wanted to demolish the houses anyway because they were in an isolated posi tion and were a potential security risk.

John Stewart, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, said that the news came as no surprise: "It confirms what we have been saying as an organisation through the T5 inquiry, that BAA has acted without waiting for any go-ahead."

Mr Stewart said that Heathrow's internal roads were good and traffic usually flowed freely. "The problem is the roads outside," he added. "They are heavily congested and nothing is being done to improve them."

Dermot Cox, another mem ber of the pressure group, has just moved from Kew, which lies on the Heathrow flight path, to Beaconsfield, 20 miles away, to avoid aircraft noise. He said: "It is outrageous that the BAA should get away with this. Even the civil aviation authority allowed the company to take account of T5 when it decided on BAA's landing charges."

Mr Cox said that BAA had already broken several undertakings given to the inquiry. One was that the number of passenger movements would not exceed 453,000 a year until 2013. Mr Cox said that the number was passed in the middle of last year.