London City Airport ‘should be shut down to make room for housing’ now that Elizabeth line connects capital to Heathrow

There have been calls to shut down London City Airport now that the Elizabeth line has stepped up Heathrow’s connectivity with the rest of the capital. London City Airport opened in 1987 and is seen as a hub for business customers going to and from European destinations for work.

The London City Airport area, which covers half a million square metres, could be repurposed as a leisure, entertainment and housing hub, according to a 2016 study by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), backed by City Hall Green Party figures.

Since it was written, the Elizabeth line has boosted Newham’s connections to the rest of London – including Heathrow – suggesting the space could be an ideal hub for new homes. NEF authors and former London mayoral candidate Siân Berry argued redevelopment could create at least 16,000 more jobs and add an additional £400 million to the UK’s economy if it were freed up for other uses.

The calls have been given a fresh boost by aviation expert Matt HB, who wrote on Twitter last week: “With the Elizabeth Line open and through running on the horizon, serious thought should be given to the closure of London City Airport. It blights a large part of East London and takes up a huge amount of prime land that could be used for house building.” Another London transport commentator replied: “The case is even stronger than in 2016. Crossrail could make it a super connected new community.”

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London City Airport carries just a fraction of London’s passengers – and could make way for thousands of new East London homes, eco campaigners say

The left-leaning New Economics Foundation think tank argued that the airport would become “irrelevant” once the Elizabeth line opened. The TfL-run route provides a link between Heathrow and Canary Wharf in just 39 minutes. And Green Party campaigners argue the airport causes “untold health and environmental problems” to residents. Newham is one of the worst-hit boroughs in the country for air pollution.

Green London Assembly member Siân Berry said: “Closing City Airport is possible and long overdue and now Crossrail is open, this is not only realistic, it’s necessary. People living around the airport in Newham, have put up with this noise and pollution on their doorstep for long enough. They are the people who first alerted me to this idea, and they need to have this huge area of land under their control at last.

“With City Hall now next door, fiercer climate targets and a deepening housing crisis, this area could be an amazing new quarter for London, with space for new homes, new green spaces, and new green businesses. The owners have already put their expansion plans, which Sadiq Khan approved, on hold. Now is the time to start talking about more sustainable ways to make a profit on their investment because shutting down London’s smallest airport and using the land for good would have massive, long term benefits for London.”

A briefing from the party – which has received fresh impetus following the launch of the Elizabeth line – said: “If this prime piece of the land were used sustainably ­for innovative businesses, residential areas, leisure, cultural facilities and shops, it would go a long way towards solving many of London’s problems at the same time. Pollution-related death rates around the airport are among the highest in the country, and ‘crash zone’ rules are preventing development in the local area. All for the sake of a tiny number of passengers.”

A spokesperson for London City Airport told MyLondon : “Our recovery this year – set to nearly reach three million passengers – the ambitions of airlines to add more routes from LCY, and our ability to create even more jobs for local people points to an airport that plays a key, distinct and important role for London, now and in the future.

“We’re excited about the decade ahead and, as detailed last month, we have set our plans on how we can be the first London airport to achieve net zero emissions and how we can play a leading role in realising the potential of zero emission flight.”

In 2019, before the pandemic, City Airport carried around five million passengers, compared to 81 million for Heathrow in 2019 and 47 million for Gatwick. Amid flight bans in 2021, that dropped to 720,000 passengers compared to 19 million for Heathrow.

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Josiah joined MyLondon as the outlet’s first City Hall Editor in October 2021, reporting on the Mayor, the London Assembly, the Met police, Transport for London, and wider London politics.

He moved to South London from Brussels in 2015, working in communications for the Electoral Reform Society, and covering Westminster politics as a freelance journalist. Originally from Cornwall, he is now also a proud Londoner. Josiah has appeared on BBC Radio 4, Times Radio, LBC and other outlets to discuss current affairs and general political chaos.

If you have an untold story – whether it’s a housing nightmare, an unfair decision or a local scandal, get in touch at [email protected] or contact Josiah on Twitter.

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