Flight relief as airport expansion paused

London City Airport (credit Kreepin Deth - Wikimedia Commons)
London City Airport (credit Kreepin Deth/Wikimedia Commons)

London City Airport cites lower demand since pandemic for decision to delay plans, reports James Cracknell

Campaigners against climate change and air and noise pollution in the borough are celebrating after London City Airport announced it was postponing its expansion plans.

Waltham Forest is one of the worst-affected boroughs in London for overflying planes thanks to its position directly underneath the Newham airport’s main flightpath, with residents long locked in battle with aviation bosses over various proposals to expand and allow more flights.

The latest £500million upgrade of the airport, including an extension to its only terminal building, could have seen up to twice as many flights taking off each year. Business travellers from London’s financial districts make up a significant chunk of its custom and the airport’s operating company has responded to passenger demand falling “well below normal” since the coronavirus lockdown by pausing expansion until “confidence is restored”.

John Stewart, chair of the HACAN East campaign group representing local residents, told the Echo: “This is a big blow to London City Airport. It had been hoping to grow significantly over the next few years. But it has had to bow to the inevitable.

“It relies heavily on business passengers and unless they come back it could continue to struggle. For residents under the airport’s unpopular concentrated flight paths it means relief from the noise that was blighting their lives.”

Local campaigner Meera Chadha said: “One of the positives of lockdown has been reduced flights and therefore reduced emissions for the planet and noise pollution for local residents. Let’s hope the airport uses the opportunity to review the need to grow flight numbers.”

The airport’s overall target had been to increase flight numbers from the current 84,000 per year to 151,000 by 2035. Some parts of the expansion had already been completed prior to the pandemic, such as building eight new aircraft stands, and chief executive Robert Sinclair said he “remained confident” about its long-term prospects.

He said: “Completing the terminal extension and new east pier very much remains part of our future and, with the foundations for both in place, we stand ready to take those projects forward when demand returns.

“In the months ahead we will work with airlines and government to help restore confidence to the UK aviation market and we will continue to support our local authority and our communities as they plan for life beyond the crisis.”

Waltham Forest Council has long opposed the airport’s expansion. Deputy leader Clyde Loakes said: “The council has consistently and loudly voiced its opposition to plans to expand London City Airport, which would have led to a huge increase in the number of flights over Leyton, Leytonstone, and the whole north-east London region.

“It is surely common sense to finally abandon these clearly unpopular plans as we concentrate on the immediate health and wellbeing of our residents.”