Clearer skies

Crane plane
A plane flying over Waltham Forest

Report by James Cracknell

Campaigners against aviation in the borough are celebrating after London City Airport dropped plans to extend flight operating times, delayed a decision on its proposed expansion, and grounded all commercial planes until the end of the government lockdown.

Waltham Forest is the third most overflown borough in London – thanks in part to the ‘concentrated’ flightpath from London City Airport that lies directly above Leyton and Leytonstone – but residents have been able to enjoy some respite over the last few weeks with all flights currently suspended until at least the middle of May.

The respite comes following news in March that the airport’s operator is now intending to maintain the 24-hour weekend break, when no planes are permitted to fly. It has also ditched plans to bring in more early morning and late evening flights.

Meanwhile, the ongoing pandemic has led the airport to postpone publication of its master plan, which had been expected to include its proposals for raising the cap on the number of flights permitted and doubling the overall number of flights. Flight numbers are currently capped at 111,000, but London City Airport has said it wants to increase this to 151,000 by 2035. There were around 75,000 flights in 2018.

Anti-aviation activist Meera Chadha said: “There is still work to convince the airport and planning authority that in a time of climate crisis we should be reconsidering expanding the number of flights at all, but this is a great first step in addressing the environmental and wellbeing impacts on East London residents.”

A spokesperson for London City Airport said: “Due to the escalation of the Covid-19 epidemic, and the need to prioritise supporting our staff, airlines and communities, we have deferred the publication of the master plan until later this year.”