New British Airways headquarters could be built in Colnbrook
Slough Council has dropped a heavy hint that it may seek to accommodate a new headquarters building for British Airways in Colnbrook in its revised Local Plan.
In an Issues and Options paper approved by Cabinet just over two weeks ago, planners at Slough Borough Council suggested that the new Local Plan will need to take into account the loss of the British Airway’s headquarters building. BA’s current HQ, Waterside, off Harmondsworth Moor, will find itself under the tarmac of a Third Runway should it be built.
Slough has already indicated it will support the re-designation of Green Belt to support the rebuilding of the Grundon incinerator at Colnbrook Lakeside, which would also be lost, and wants to release Green Belt in Colnbrook and Poyle as “employment land” to support the expansion effort.
In the paper the Council says:
“The construction of the runway will mean that a number of existing facilities such as the British Airways Headquarters at Waterside Park and the Grundon’s energy from waste plant will be demolished.
“The Local plan will therefore have to consider how these and other uses can be replaced.”
BA’s massive Waterside complex opened in 1997 and cost £200 million to build. Being located in Harmondsworth the overture to British Airways to offer it a new home in Slough will no doubt raise eyebrows – and potentially set it on a collision course with its neighbour, given BA is the biggest funding source of Hillingdon Council after Heathrow Airport itself.
The Council has already given positive signals to Grundon. The “Energy from Waste” plant and part of the Lakeside Road industrial area would have to be demolished to make way for the airport’s expansion and the incinerator-operator originally wrote to the Airports Commission objecting to Heathrow’s plans. But it noted at the time that it was in discussion with the airport about a relocation package and has subsequently announced that it has reached agreement with the airport.
Grundon is the third biggest contributor to Slough’s coffers, in terms of business rates paid for its four Colnbrook premises, including its flagship Energy from Waste facility. In February 2016 its rateable value was £3.6 million. Only the Royal Mail’s sorting centre at Axis Park (£6.2 million) and Tesco Stores on Wellington Street (£4.5 million) brought in more.
As of September 2016, British Airways pays Hillingdon £6.2 million annually in respect of business rates on the Waterside complex. The prospect of persuading the airline to relocate in return for a similar park-creation deal to that which allowed it to build Waterside won’t be lost on cash-strapped Slough.
Its rates on Waterside are a drop in the ocean, however, compared to BA’s £27.6m annual bill for its World Cargo Centre or £23m for Terminal 5. But even they dwarf the £247.5m rates bill that Heathrow pays.
Slough’s MP Fiona Mactaggart has made no secret that she intends to go after a share of that prize should a Third Runway be built through Colnbrook. She told the Davies Commission public hearings in December 2014 that Slough should be made an equal partner in the planning process for an expanded Heathrow, and that the town needed a share of Heathrow’s business rates to pay for schools, housing, roads and older people’s services.