LAHORE: The Punjab government has started working on shifting the Walton airport to a far-off piece of government land owing to potential safety risks at the existing site that may also be used to promote business activities.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has personally directed the Punjab government to ascertain viability of shifting Walton airport, the way forward for Abu Dhabi Group’s Taavun high-rise project on Ferozepur Road and the proposed Walton Central Business District project.
The Walton airport land is owned by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Army and Army Housing Directorate. The plan to shift it had emerged when the CAA had cancelled a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) issued for 500 feet in height to the Taavun project, which has been deadlocked for over 14 years.
Existing site to be made a business hub
Prime Minister Khan had sought a briefing from Punjab Chief Secretary Jawwad Rafique Malik a couple of months ago and given an executive order to shift the Walton airport and allow business activities on the airport site and its surroundings, a reliable source in the Punjab cabinet told Dawn on Monday as the matter was discussed in the province’s apex body.
The Punjab government had constituted a committee for ascertaining the feasibility and way forward for Taavun and the proposed business district project. The committee’s maiden meeting towards the end of last year was briefed by the chief secretary that the premier wanted an update in a week on the cancellation of the NOC to Taavun and the possibility of relocating Walton airport.
The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) vice chairman (VC) had stated in the meeting that the current location of the airport posed a serious security risk due to the densely populated residential and commercial areas around it. He had told the meeting that the Taavun project, with a proposed height of 500ft, fell within the funnel area of Walton airport, owing to which the CAA had cancelled the NOC.
He proposed to relocate the airport and convert the existing site to an economic/business hub. Stressing that an increasing business appetite is being witnessed regarding high-rise buildings in Lahore and the current LDA policies promoted such buildings, the VC said: “The Walton airport, however, continues to be a stumbling block in the development of high-rise buildings in prime location of Lahore.”
In the same meeting, the CAA representative endorsed the relocation proposal. Currently, he said, only 150ft high buildings were permissible. “If the Walton airport is relocated by offering alternate land for the airport, a maximum height of 700ft will be allowable in the vicinity of Lahore,” the representative said, adding that various activities such as para-jumping could be initiated at the new airport site.
The meeting endorsed the perspectives of the LDA and CAA representatives.
The government committee agreed in principle to relocate the Walton airport and that the CAA consider conditional approval to the NOC for 500ft in height for Taavun so that the project could be re-initiated on fast track.
The Board of Revenue senior member, colonies member, the Lahore Commissioner were instructed to determine the ownerships of the land along with details on ongoing litigation on it.
Although the committee had agreed to task the LDA with thrashing out various options for establishment of an environment-friendly economic hub at the present airport site, the Punjab cabinet on Monday discussed whether the initiative should be spearheaded by the LDA or the proposed Lahore Central Business District Development Authority. The cabinet eventually granted approval in principle to establish the business district authority.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2021