London City Airport has received formal approval for its expansion, overturning a veto to the plans from previous mayor Boris Johnson.
The £344 million expansion will allow the airport to increase capacity, and the types of aircraft it can accommodate. In turn, this is expected to add the potential to reach more long haul destinations, such as cities in Russia, India and Canada.
The approved scheme will see enlargement of the terminal building, a new taxiway alongside the current runway, and additional aircraft parking space with seven new stands. The move will permit the airport to take new, next generation aircraft which promise to be quieter. Passenger capacity will increase to a maximum 6.5 million a year, up from the current 4.3 million who used the airport in 2015.
The airport operators will also be contributing to improvements in local transport infrastructure, including more rolling stock for the Docklands Light Railway, and better bus and taxi access.
“Today, the new Government has shown it is ready to act in the best interests of the British economy,” said airport chief executive Declan Collier. “Expansion at London City Airport will create more than 2,000 new jobs in East London, add much-needed aviation capacity in the South East, and generate an additional £750m per year for the UK economy. As the airport serving by far the highest proportion of business travellers in the UK (52%), who do some £11bn of trade in Europe annually, today the Government has sent a strong message that London and the UK are very much open for business. I welcome the decision and look forward to delivering new airport capacity for the South East by 2019.”
The airport’s expansion plans had been approved by local borough Newham. In February 2015, its strategic development committee cleared the expansion, having secured strict controls over noise, pollution and total flight numbers. A section 106 agreement includes £6.8million towards employment, education and training in the borough, with £5.84million being channelled directly to Newham residents using the council’s job brokerage scheme Workplace. The airport will also pay for soundproofing work to local residents most affected by the construction work and airport operations.
Shortly after the approval, then London mayor Boris Johnson turned down the plans, declaring them unacceptable as they would blight the lives of many living near the airport. At the same time, he argued for a new airport hub to be created, east of the City. His move prompted a furious Newham mayor, Sir Robin Wales, to declare: “Boris Johnson is guilty of blatant electioneering. He is clearly more interested in chasing election votes in Uxbridge than securing vital jobs and investment in east London.”
The airport owners subsequently appealed against the mayor’s decision, with an inquiry held in March 2016.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, speaking at the City airport announcement, also gave a hint of some progress on a decision to expand one of London’s large airports. The long-delayed decision would now be announced in the autumn, he promised. “The decision was taken to go back and do some more work on the air-quality issue and the sustainability of the air quality standards that would be required. I know that it’s taken longer than many people would have liked but it’s important to get this right,” Mr Hammond said.
LPA Perspective: One of the less impressive decisions in Boris Johnson’s mayoral legacy was the refusal of the City airport expansion, which appeared to be based on less than sound logic. That has now been overturned, and the only London airport that passengers actually enjoy travelling through, can now get on with expansion.
Officials in Newham have had close to 30 years of finessing their relationship with a succession of owners of the airport, which was a trailblazer from the start – though not immediately a commercial success. It continues to deliver a great service for the UK capital, allowing passengers a swift transit to a growing number of European and US destinations.
There was some irony in the fact that no less than three government ministers grabbed the limelight of delivering what was effectively a planning inspector’s decision, to overturn Johnson’s views. It is to be hoped they will display the same unity, and commit to their autumn date, for finally making a decision on airport expansion elsewhere in the south east.
In its Brexit condition, the UK needs more than ever to have a solid set of air links to international trading partners – something that Heathrow is currently struggling to provide. Other airports around the UK, notably Manchester, are taking advantage – and could therefore scoop up the goodwill of incoming Chinese investors, in preference to London.
The other piece of good news around the airport’s expansion, is that Newham looks to have taken a joined up approach. Section 106 monies will help support better transport links to the airport, while other vital infrastructure such as increased hotel provision has also been accounted for.