Newham Council rejects London City Airport flight increase plan

In likely welcome news for those living under the flight path in Leytonstone, London City Airport’s plans to extend its flying time on Saturday afternoons were blocked, reports Ruby Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Credit: Matthew Browne via Unsplash

An East London council has rejected London City Airport’s plans to extend its flying time on Saturday afternoons following strong opposition from residents and councillors.

Newham’s council chamber was met with a round of applause on Monday afternoon (July 10) after its strategic development committee unanimously voted against the plans.

The London airport wanted to extend its cut-off time for flights from 1pm on Saturdays to 6.30pm all year round and 7.30pm during the summer months, as well increasing its daily limit of flights from six to nine between 6.30am and 7am.

London City Airport CEO Robert Sinclair said the proposals were part of the airport’s larger plans to increase the number of annual passengers from 6.5million to nine million by 2031. He told the room: “London City Airport is proud to call Newham home.

“For over 35 years we’ve made a major contribution to Newham’s economy including the Royal Docks and over that time tens of thousands of Newham residents have worked at the airport and today we’re one of Newham’s largest employers.”

Mr Sinclair said the plans would increase the amount of jobs available for local residents, would benefit local businesses and would result in offering more affordable flights to different destinations. As part of its proposals, City Airport has pledged to use a “cleaner, quieter new generation aircraft” and said there would be thousands of jobs up for grabs for local people.

However the plans were met with 1,644 objections from nearby residents and several London councils had strongly opposed the plans having cited noise as a major concern. Representations from the London boroughs of Lewisham, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Southwark, Greenwich, Havering, Hackney and Tower Hamlets – all of which objected to the plans – were published in council documents prior to the meeting.

For the last 25 years the airport has had a “weekend respite” which means planes are banned from flying between 1pm on Saturdays to 12.30pm on Sundays so residents can have a break from the noise. Cllr Sarah Ruiz, whose ward is Custom House, spoke out against the plans during the meeting and said residents’ lives have been “blighted”. She said: “Only yesterday afternoon I was in a garden in Custom House and it was impossible to sit and enjoy being there because of the noise, 24 hours of quiet time is not a lot to ask for those residents whose lives have been blighted.”

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Cllr Nate Higgins of Newham’s Green Party told the room: “This airport is a blight on residents and an inexcusable misuse of land in such a densely populated London borough with exceptional links to central London. There is so much potential for this area but it’s being held back by a polluting airport which is causing misery and is used by so few.”

Case officer Liam McFadden then presented the planning application, which officers had recommended for refusal. Mr McFadden said: “Insufficient weight has been given by the applicant to the benefits of this period [of respite]. The applicant has also assigned too much weight to the benefits of the scheme.” He added: “The benefits are therefore insufficient to outweigh or mitigate the substantial harm identified.”

After representations were heard from the applicant, supporters, objectors and council officers, the committee then moved on to ask questions. The intense debate lasted for almost an hour and the committee then moved on to the vote.

London City Airport submitted its application for extended flight times back in December last year, and began its public consultation in February this year.

Geoffrey McDowall, a Leyton resident said the rejection was “excellent news and a good result brought about by hours of hard work from groups like HACAN East” but cautioned that “London City will not be happy to let the matter rest”.

John Stewart, chair of anti-expansion campaign group HACAN East, welcomed the decision: “People value the weekend break from the noise. It was brought in because people live so close to the airport. Newham Council was right to reject the proposal to eat into it.”

According to HACAN East it’s unclear what the airport will do in response to Newham Council’s rejection but the airport could potentially appeal to the government to ‘call in’ the proposal which could then lead to a public inquiry if the government accept it.

A spokesperson for London City Airport told the Echo: “We are disappointed with the decision of Newham Council’s Strategic Development committee. Our proposals will create almost 2,200 jobs at the airport, support an additional 2,300 London jobs through tourism and increased business productivity; contribute an additional £702m in Gross Value Added to London’s economy and improve connectivity for passengers.”

“Our proposals include no more flights than are currently permitted and – a UK airport first – a commitment that only cleaner, quieter, new generation aircraft will be allowed to fly in any extended periods. We firmly believe in our proposals, which are carefully balanced and make best use of our infrastructure. We are actively considering next steps.”

UPDATE: This article has been updated with comments from London City Airport, Geoffrey McDowall, and HACAN East

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