Heliport site floats interesting points

Roger Pearson looks ahead

Judgment is imminent in one of the most curious planning battles ever to reach the High Court.

Deputy Judge Sir Haydn Tudor Evans is being asked to rule on the planning situation over proposals to site a floating heliport on the Thames.

A decision is sought on whether, if such a heliport is a floating and mobile structure, it will need the normal planning consents that would be required for a heliport on dry land. If he decides it does not then the implications of such a ruling could go beyond the immediate u1.5 million scheme.

This kind of planning loophole could pave the way for similar schemes throughout the country, according to Dockland's Forum, one of the groups opposing the plan.

Tower Hamlets Council, which is leading 10 local London authorities, argues that, floating or not, it would be subject to the same planning requirements applying to a land-based heliport.

If the court takes a different view it will potentially clear the way for Thames Heliport, the company behind the scheme, to go on with its plans without having to observe normal planning procedures and without allowing objectors to challenge the scheme.

The court is being asked to decide whether helicopters landing or taking off from a vessel floating, but not moored, on the tidal River Thames, requires planning permission, or constitutes development as a change of land use, under planning legislation.

The scheme would convert the 150ft Father Thames floating restaurant into a heliport.

Objectors to the scheme argue that this would create potential for the vessel to be positioned along 22 sites between Battersea and the Thames Barrier with up to 22,000 helicopter movements a year.