Public inquiry into London City Airport proposals begins

The first session of a public inquiry into an appeal to expand London City Airport took place on Tuesday.

The airport had plans to raise the annual cap on passengers from 6.5 million to 9 million rejected unanimously by Newham Council in July 2023, and subsequently appealed the decision.

This inquiry, which began at Stratford Town Hall, will also consider how airport management, which opened in 1987, also want to extend weekend flight hours to 18:30 on a Saturday, with an extra hour during the summer.

Currently planes are not permitted to fly between 12:30 on a Saturday and 12:30 on a Sunday, a curfew that has been in place for 25 years.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN East, the residents’ organisation challenging the proposals, said, “These proposals are highly unpopular.

“People greatly value their weekend break from the noise.

“It is often forgotten how many people are annoyed by the noise from London City Airport.

“It impacts more people than Madrid, Brussels or Schiphol Airports.

“Local authorities many miles from the airport have objected to these expansion proposals.”

There are also fears the plans would make Mayor Sadiq Khan’s target for a net-zero London by 2030 less achievable.

Public sentiment has been reportedly against the proposals, with a Newham Council consultation reporting 92.5% people against the plans.

At the inquiry, MP for East Ham Sir Stephen Timms said he supported the airport because it provided work opportunities in the borough after the London docks closed in the 1970s.

Timms helped negotiate the 24-hour ban on weekend flights when he was Chair of Newham’s Planning Committee in 1987.

However, on the airport’s expansion proposals, he said: “Extending flights to Saturday afternoons seems to me to be a fundamental breach of the understanding that the airport reached with the community when it opened.

“Residents living near the airport would never again be able to enjoy a quiet weekend afternoon in their garden. That would fundamentally erode, I think, residents’ ability to enjoy their homes.”

Jackie Laidler, who is retired and has lived three miles from the airport in Thamesmead since before the airport was opened, said: “We can’t enjoy the peace and tranquillity we worked hard for thanks to the deafening noise from the increasing number of flights that are below 2,000 ft over our house.

She reported having experienced disturbances of up to 80dB, according to an app she uses that tracks air traffic noise.

She said she cannot read or watch TV without being disturbed by the sound of aeroplanes and finds the noise embarrassing when she has guests over.

“With the current volume of arrivals and departures we all feel the quality of our lives have been impacted,” she said.

Cllr Jo Blackman of Redbridge Council also spoke in favour of the council’s July decision.

However, Lloyd Johnson, Chairman of Newham Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favour of the airport as it provides well-paid employment opportunities, especially for young people coming out of education, and brings the added advantage of international business deals.

London City is the UK airport with the highest proportion of business travel according to the Civil Aviation Authority, who found in 2022 that 42% of the airport’s passengers flew for business, more than double that of Heathrow, the second highest, at 19%.

The inquiry will last two weeks before a break and resume on 15th January. 

When the inquiry closes, the independent planning inspectorate will review the evidence and write a report of recommendation that will be sent to the Secretaries of State for Levelling Up and Transport.

The Cabinet members will then make the ultimate decision.

Image Credit: ThePixelman from Pixabay

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