The sky’s limit


More planes will be flying over Wanstead if London City Airport’s latest proposals for expansion are approved, says John Stewart of campaign group HACAN East

Wanstead will be hit with more London City planes on Saturdays and in the early morning and late evening if the airport’s expansion plans are approved. 

London City Airport wants to:

  • Get rid of the current curfew on flights (12.30pm Saturday to 12.30pm Sunday) to allow flying on Saturday afternoons and evenings.
  • Double the number of flights permitted between 6.30am and 7am.
  • Have ‘more flexibility’ for delayed departures and arrivals in the last half hour of operations each day (10pm to 10.30pm). 

The measures are to accommodate an annual increase in passengers from 6.5m to 9m. It will mean that, by 2031, the airport will be just short of the annual cap on flight numbers of 111,000. That is more than double the flights expected this year and up from the 80,000 that flew in 2019, the last full year before Covid.

The reason behind the proposals is London City’s desire to attract more leisure passengers. For many years, City was seen as a business airport but the proportion of business passengers fell before Covid and, post-Covid, the growth is in leisure.

London City is claiming that ‘quieter, cleaner’ planes will be used. But the aircraft will only be noticeably quieter in areas fairly close to the airport, and only on departure. Wanstead can expect, at best, a two- to three-decibel reduction in noise from each plane, barely perceptible to the human ear.

The proposals will also result in an increase in climate emissions.

The big problem for Wanstead is that since 2016, when London City concentrated its flight paths, the area gets no relief from the noise. On days when the prevailing west wind blows, all departures come over Wanstead, at a height of around 3,000 feet. London City is looking again at its flight paths with a view to alternating them to give communities like Wanstead some relief. The airport is also being urged to work with Heathrow to separate the two airport’s flight paths. At present, City flights over Wanstead are lower than they need be as they are held down by Heathrow flights above them.

I welcome those moves, but the new flight paths are unlikely to be in place before 2027, three years after City’s current growth proposals would come into operation.

The current consultation is open until 9 September. Whatever plans London City takes forward will need to be submitted to Newham Council, the planning authority.

To take part in the London City Airport consultation, visit wnstd.com/lca22