Arora Group submits rival plan to expand Heathrow

Hotel tycoon Surinder Arora’s firm has submitted the first part of its rival planning application to expand Heathrow.

It is believed to be the first time a competing bid to obtain a development consent order (DCO) has been made in the UK.

Arora Group claims it offers a cheaper alternative to the third runway scheme planned by the west London hub’s owner, Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL).

Airlines have expressed concern that they will be hit with increased fees to pay for expansion.

In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Arora accused HAL of “not being transparent” over the cost of its plan, which it has put at £14 billion.

Surinder Arora says his expansion plan would cost £14.4 billion (Arora Group/PA)
Surinder Arora says his expansion plan would cost £14.4 billion (Arora Group/PA)

The 60-year-old claimed it would actually cost HAL £31 billion to reach a capacity of 130 million passengers per year, compared with £14.4 billion if his own proposal is approved.

He wants to concentrate new terminal capacity between Terminal 5 and the M25 to avoid the need to redevelop existing terminals.

Arora Group, which was founded by the businessman, is one of the largest landowners at the airport.

HAL has insisted it will keep costs tightly controlled, but Mr Arora declared: “We don’t believe them.”

He said HAL wants to “protect their monopoly” as there is “no benchmark to see how the airport operator delivers or doesn’t deliver”.

Mr Arora claimed the way HAL managed projects to build a car park at Terminal 2, a baggage handling facility near Terminal 3 and the ongoing refurbishment of a road tunnel highlights why expansion “needs competition”.

DCOs have been used since 2008 to simplify the process of giving planning permission to nationally significant infrastructure projects.

It was always assumed that HAL would be the only organisation to apply for a DCO to expand the airport.

Surinder Arora is a hotel tycoon (Cathal McNaughton/PA)
Surinder Arora is a hotel tycoon (Cathal McNaughton/PA)

But Mr Arora said his company is spending around £100 million on its own plans.

The millionaire insisted he is not doing it “for egos” but because he wants to “make a difference for future generations” by expanding Heathrow in a way that is “world class at affordable prices”.

Arora Group’s proposals cover all the airport infrastructure required for expansion except for the actual third runway, which would still be installed by HAL.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee in February 2018 that Arora Group’s scheme is a “very credible alternative” as the company builds facilities “at a fraction of the cost of Heathrow”.

Arora Group has submitted a 700-page scoping document for its DCO application.

The decision on whether to grant a DCO – and which application to approve – will be made by the Transport Secretary.

A spokeswoman for the airport said: “Heathrow expansion is an opportunity to connect all of Britain to global growth and the Department for Transport has stated that Heathrow Airport Limited is the only credible promoter of the expansion programme.

“The Arora Group’s plan appears to solely be about building a new terminal which will not deliver on the commitments we have made to Britain and our local communities.”

The Government easily won a Commons vote on whether Heathrow should be expanded in June last year.

Construction could begin in early 2021, with the third runway open by 2026.

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