New owner has plans for London’s public heliport

 - March 8, 2007, 5:02 AM

The new owner of the London Heliport, von Essen Hotels, has appointed UK helicopter charter operator PremiAir to manage the site. The heliport, located at Battersea on the south bank of the River Thames, will be extensively redeveloped following a February 8 deal in which von Essen Hotels purchased the site from the Weston group.

The move comes after several years of uncertainty about whether the heliport might be closed and the land redeveloped for lucrative residential or commercial use. There is no other public heliport in central London and proposals to open other facilities have always encountered political obstacles. The heliport is located about three miles from the UK parliament and about five miles from the City of London financial district.

“This is good news for the helicopter sector in the UK because it ends all the speculation about the future of the site,” said PremiAir managing director David McRobert.

Over the next two years, von Essen will complete the construction of a new hotel next to the heliport. The second floor of this building will serve as a new terminal and control tower. This development will allow the new owners to demolish the Battersea facility’s existing buildings, making more room for parking helicopters.

PremiAir will be responsible for managing the heliport under a long-term agreement that establishes a company called London Heliport Ltd. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Some short-term improvements will be made to the site in anticipation of the new terminal being completed.

Standard operating hours for the London Heliport are 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays (extended to 11 p.m. with prior notice) and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The facility is limited to 12,000 commercial movements per year, with exemptions for medical flights and operations by police and other emergency services. The heliport is already close to this limit with almost 1,000 movements each month.

PremiAir is the largest commercial operator at the London Heliport, with a charter and management fleet that consists of more than 20 helicopters, including Sikorsky S-76s, Agusta A109s, Bell 222s and Eurocopter Twin Squirrels. It also has London-area bases at Denham and Blackbushe.