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The public inquiry into London City Airport’s expansion plans ended last month. As we await a government decision on the plans, Councillor Jo Blackman explains her contribution to the proceedings 

London City Airport was originally designed for business travel and smaller aircraft in the late 1980s. However, it has since seen a significant increase in jet engine flights, with leisure flights now making up 50% of trips. And the concentration of flight paths in 2016, including over Wanstead, exacerbated the impact of aircraft noise and pollution. So, the airport’s latest plans to increase passenger numbers from 6.5m to 9m a year, with more flights early in the morning and on Saturday afternoon, are a cause for concern. 

The current 24-hour respite period (from 12.30pm on Saturday to 12.30pm on Sunday) was considered a crucial condition in the original agreement to allow residents a break from aircraft noise. Arguably, this is more needed than ever as flight numbers have increased and the population has grown around the airport.

The government requested a public inquiry after City Airport’s expansion plans were rejected by Newham Council. 

I spoke at the inquiry in December and highlighted concerns raised by residents about the plans, as did John Cryer MP and Stephen Timms MP. I highlighted the current impact of City Airport on noise and air pollution in Redbridge for those living under the flight path, in particular in Wanstead. I shared concerns from residents who are woken by the morning flights and are unable to sit outside during flight times. I also highlighted concerns about the impact on Epping Forest as a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is an internationally important site afforded the highest level of protection due to its habitats and species that are vulnerable or rare and under threat. 

The additional emissions generated by the increased passenger numbers would also contribute to climate change. Our borough is already suffering from more extreme weather events – droughts and flooding – and an increase in emissions has both global and local impacts through changes in the climate. 

The public inquiry ended on 2 February and the inspector now has three months to write the report and recommendation, which will go to the Secretaries of State (for levelling up and transport) who will make the final decision on whether the expansion plans can proceed. 

London is well-served by many airports which are accessible and aren’t in such built-up areas. Let’s hope the Secretaries of State recognise the adverse impacts on residents and the climate when considering the inspector’s report later this year.

Councillor Jo Blackman (Wanstead Village, Labour) is the Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability. Email jo.blackman@redbridge.gov.uk

Author: Editor