Indian origin hotelier in car park row with Heathrow Airport

London: An Indian-origin hotel tycoon in Britain is locked in a legal battle with Heathrow Airport over his plans to build a multi-storey car park on land he owns at the facility.

In a row that could have implications for expansion of the hub, Surinder Arora issued a UK High Court claim against the west London airport over his plans to build a 2,077-space, nine-storey car park on land he owns at Heathrow, the Sunday Times reported.

However, Heathrow Airport Ltd claims it alone is entitled to build these spaces.

Under local planning rules, a maximum of 42,000 car parking spaces are allowed at the airport, but Arora said the 42,000 cap referred to the airport site as a whole — of which his land is a part. So he said that he should be allowed to build car park spaces.

According to the report, a planning application has been pending with Hillingdon Council since 2015. Unable to secure approval for his car park, Arora was allowed to build a smaller version — 1,000 spaces and five storeys — on the site, which opened in 2017.

Now, Arora wants to expand this by adding another four floors and undercut parking charges at Heathrow — which are among the most expensive in the world.

According to the daily, Heathrow Airport, however, 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 Times report said the row was about “more than just car parking” and was a “proxy for Arora’s broader battle with the airport on whether competition should be allowed”.

Arora wants the right to build the third runway at Heathrow 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.

The hotel tycoon, with an estimated fortune of 349 million pounds in the recent Sunday Times Rich List, is understood to have hired two top barristers to fight his parking case.

Another bidder, Heathrow Hub, whose plan is to stretch and extend Heathrow’s existing northern runway, is also challenging the airport’s dominance, the Times said.

Heathrow acknowledged Arora’s claim last week, saying: “We believe this is entirely without merit and will respond accordingly.”