Councillors debated a motion to approve the proposals at a special full council meeting on Wednesday (November 25) at 7pm before a final decision was made by the executive in front of a packed public gallery.
The Tory executive met in the Great Hall to take the decision immediately after the full council debate with four votes in favour to three against.
Tempers flared throughout the meeting with the members of the public gallery heckling councillors, who spoke in favour of the plans – you can read our live blog of the meeting here.
The airport has bold development plans to extend its operating hours, create 2,300 jobs, open an aviation college, and cut its noise footprint in half.
‘A small successful and prosperous airport’
Will Curtis, airport managing director, said today (November 26): “Our aspiration is to create a small, successful and prosperous airport, one that generates jobs and training whilst protecting the amenity of our neighbouring residents.
“This decision is an important step in that direction – but there is still lots to do.
“Not least, we must now get on with the job of putting in place our noise mitigation measures and attracting more businesses to the airport.
“We shall continue to update the community with our progress.”
But Orpington resident Celia Clode, 68, of St Leonards Rise, described the meeting as a “farce”.
The 68-year-old said: “They may just as well have had the vote at the beginning of the evening because obviously the councillors had already decided how they were going to vote – despite all the opposition from the residents.”
Twenty-nine councillors voted in favour of the motion recommending the council grant Biggin Hill Airport extended hours and an amendment to its lease, before the executive made the final decision.
Nineteen councillors voted against and 10 abstained, meaning the motion was passed.
Leader Councillor Stephen Carr, Councillor Peter Morgan, Council Peter Fortune and Council Graham Arthur voted in favour of the extended hours.
Council Kate Lymer, Councillor Robert Evans and Councillor Colin Smith voted against.
‘Illogical decision making’
Nicholas Mulholland, of Wood Ride, Petts Wood, told News Shopper: “When one witnesses such obvious illogical decision making and dogmatic adherence to a cause despite reasonable objection, I suspect dishonesty is at play.
“I consider that Councillor Carr is not listening, that he has sought to steam roller this policy change and that causes me to question his integrity.
“We must launch a judicial review and we must see this decision overturned.”
Public consultation concerns
During question time from members of the public, Orpington MP Jo Johnson repeated concerns raised by community groups in recent weeks that the council’s public consultation into plans for extended operating hours at the airport was manipulated.
Councillor Tim Stevens, who represents Petts Wood and Knoll ward, also questioned the public consultation results as he urged councillors to vote against the extended hours.
He said: “We have now become aware that the council’s Biggin Hill surveys are frankly marginally questionable and should be ignored.”
A report into the business airport’s plans published ahead of the meeting said concerns had been raised about the accuracy of the consultation, including that its outcome was influenced by canvassing.
It read: “These concerns have been investigated and officers have not identified any significant inconsistencies or errors in either the consultation process or reported outcomes.
“The response rates were influenced by “canvassing” but it has not been suggested that actual views were misrepresented.”