Mayor’s office not happy with London City Airport’s plan for extra Saturday flights

London City Airport entrance sign
Flights are currently not allowed on Saturday afternoons at City Airport

The mayor’s office says it is against London City Airport’s plans to host flights on Saturday afternoons, which would end restrictions that have been in place for decades.

Newham Council is considering plans for the airport, in the Royal Docks, to expand its operating hours to 6.30pm on Saturdays. The plans also include 12 Saturday flights between 6.30pm and 7.30pm during the summer months.

London City is not currently allowed to operate between 12.30pm on Saturdays and 12.30pm on Sundays to give neighbours – including tens of thousands in Greenwich borough – respite from noise.

Hundreds of objections from councils and local residents have already been filed, and now Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for planning, Jules Pipe, has also signalled his unhappiness with the scheme.

In a letter to Newham Council’s planning officers giving them guidance on how to proceed, City Hall said that Pipe “considers that the application does not comply with the London Plan” – the capital’s planning guidelines laid down by the mayor’s office.

The proposal “marks the most substantial proposed change to the airport’s operations since it first opened 35 years ago”, the City Hall report said.

“The mayor has declared a climate emergency and has set a target for London to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030,” it continues. “In order for London to achieve this, the aviation sector needs to play its part and not undermine collective efforts to rapidly decarbonise.

“It would be difficult to support the proposal without [Newham] being able to demonstrate how the proposed modifications are compatible with the Mayor’s net zero carbon and wider environmental ambitions.”

While airport bosses say that only the quietest, cleanest aircraft will be used, City Hall casts doubt on this claim. “It is particularly important [that] assumptions about fleet mix are not used in the assessment to paint a misleading picture of the impacts, particularly with regard to noise, carbon and air quality,” the report says.

The comments are significant as City Hall could take over the planning application itself, although the Westminster government can also intervene.

Khan has cooled on City Airport since he was elected in 2016. Just a few days after taking office he reversed Boris Johnson’s objections to selling the airport public land needed for a new terminal and aircraft taxi lane. But by 2019, when the expansion plans were in an earlier stage, Khan warned the airport that “unfettered growth was not an option”.

Despite the major effects on the lives of millions of Londoners, the airport’s plans have had little coverage in the capital’s media, including in its home borough of Newham.

London City Airport
City Hall cast doubt on the claims of quieter aircraft

While take-offs and landings can be heard across the north of Greenwich borough, one flightpath can be heard across New Eltham and Mottingham in the south before turning over central London.

On Wednesday, Greenwich councillors will approve a joint motion between Labour and the Tories condemning the expansion plans, saying they will “bring an unacceptable level of additional detriment to residents in our borough”.

Promised improvements to flight noise will not be “noticeable to the human ear”, the motion says, calling on the council to lobby Newham, the mayor’s office and the Westminster government.

Officers from neighbouring Lewisham – where the southern flightpath roars over Catford and Forest Hill – have also filed an objection.

They add that a forecast two million extra road trips to the airport – a trip which will be made easier by the Silvertown Tunnel, also approved by Khan early in his mayoralty – will pollute the air in Lewisham and neighbouring boroughs.

Comments can be read on the Newham Council planning website.

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