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Lindsay Fox faces ban on school helicopter landing pad

Date

Chris Vedelago and Cameron Houston

Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox.

Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Billionaire Lindsay Fox could be banned from using an inner-city state high school oval as a private helicopter landing pad to commute between his Toorak mansion and seaside estate in Portsea.

A long-standing agreement with Melbourne High School allows the trucking magnate's Italian-made, eight-seat chopper to take off and land from the sports ground of the prestigious public school in South Yarra.

But Stonnington Council has launched an investigation into the arrangement following a query from a nearby resident about its legality.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

''Council is currently in the middle of investigating the inquiry which involves liaison with the complainant, the school, the alleged offender and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority [CASA],'' a spokeswoman said. ''Council has not approved anyone to land helicopters at this site.''

The car ride from Mr Fox's Toorak mansion to Melbourne High School takes approximately seven minutes, far shorter than the minimum half an hour trip to Essendon Airport. The flight time to Portsea is about 12 minutes, compared with more than 1½ hours to drive.

Melbourne High School principal Jeremy Ludowyke said he was unaware of the investigation but helicopters had been allowed to land in the grounds for more than 30 years.

''There is a belief that the only helicopter that lands there is Mr Fox's but that's completely untrue. It's been used by the army, police and the Angel of Mercy,'' he said.

''The school has certainly advised the city of Stonnington that there has been a pattern of landing helicopters on that site.''

However, a Victoria Police spokeswoman said the force's air wing does not use the oval in its operations. The Australian Defence Force could not confirm whether its helicopters land there.

Melbourne High School's policy has been to allow private operators to use the site but not commercial flight operators. A recent request to ferry fee-paying passengers to the Melbourne Cup was denied by the school and the council.

Mr Ludowyke said Mr Fox was allowed to use the site for free and the school had never received a payment or donation in exchange. Mr Fox, a former student, sponsors the four-year Lindsay Fox Scholarship administered by the Melbourne High School Foundation.

A CASA spokesman said federal regulations allowed any private land to be used as a landing site provided permission had been granted by the owner and the pilot judged it was safe. Melbourne High School sits on Crown land.

Mr Fox has fought a previous council attempt to ban him from landing at his $20 million cliff-top Portsea estate, defeating the Mornington Peninsula Shire in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2003. A representative for Mr Fox declined to comment.

■cvedelago@theage.com.au

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