Punjab-born hotelier locked in legal battle with Heathrow Airport
Britain’s leading Indian-origin hotelier Surinder Arora is locked in a legal battle with Heathrow Airport for his right to build a multi-storied car park at one of the world’s biggest airport hubs.
According to The Sunday Times, Arora has issued a UK high court claim against the west London airport over his plans to build a 2,077-space nine-storied car park on a land he owns at Heathrow. While Heathrow Airport Limited claims it alone is entitled to build these spaces, Arora has challenged that claim.
Under local planning rules, a maximum of 42,000 car parking spaces are allowed at the airport. Arora believes the 42,000 cap refers to the airport site as a whole, of which his land is a part and therefore should allow him the right to build car-park spaces too.
A planning application has been pending with Hillingdon Council since 2015. Unable to secure approval for his multi-storied car park, Arora was allowed to build a smaller version with 1,000 spaces and five storeys on the site, which opened last year.
However, the Punjab-born entrepreneur behind a chain of hotels in the UK wants to add another four floors and undercut parking charges at Heathrow, which are among the most expensive in the world.
But the newspaper notes that Heathrow guards its car parking rights “jealously”. As well as earning money from drivers, they allow it to reap returns from airline passengers by adding the value of the car parks to its asset base, currently worth 15.8 billion pounds. The newspaper also claims that the current row is about more than just car parking. It is a proxy for Arora’s broader battle with the airport on whether competition should be allowed.
The businessman wants the right to build a third runway at the airport, and has backing from airlines, including British Airways, for his cut-price plan. Heathrow, however, claims the right to develop the runway is its alone.
Arora, with an estimated fortune of 349 million pounds (around Rs 300 crore) in the latest 2018 edition of ‘The Sunday Times Rich List’, is understood to have hired two top barristers to fight his parking case.
Heathrow thinks Arora should exhaust the planning process before going to court. “We believe this is entirely without merit and will respond accordingly,” the airport said in reference to the high court claim filed by Arora.
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