Plans to expand London City Airport blocked by local authority

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Plans for a significant expansion of London City Airport have been blocked by the airport’s local authority over concerns around the impact of noise pollution and other environmental impacts from the extra flights. 

Newham Council on Monday rejected the airport’s bid to expand its annual passenger numbers from 6.5mn to 9mn by extending its operating hours, including an increase in weekend and early-morning flights.

The airport, which is popular among business travellers because of its proximity to the City of London and Canary Wharf financial districts, has long operated under strict hours because of its location in a densely populated part of east London.

It had sought to ease these restrictions to help meet the demand for air travel which has bounced back since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airport had offered local residents a “commitment” that only new and comparatively quiet aircraft would be allowed to operate during the extended operating hours.

“Newham council has declared a climate emergency and is working to support residents to live happy, healthy and well,” the council said.

The airport said it was “disappointed” with the decision and was “actively considering . . . next steps”. 

“We firmly believe in our proposals, which are carefully balanced and make best use of our infrastructure,” the airport said.

The Planning Inspectorate, a government agency, has overturned local decisions blocking airport expansions at London Stansted and Bristol in recent years.

Airports are racing to win permission to expand their operations. Last week, London Gatwick formally submitted proposals to increase its passenger capacity by 60 per cent, while Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, is still considering whether to push ahead with its expansion project. 

The UK’s eight biggest airports have plans to fly almost 150mn more passengers a year, a rise of more than 60 per cent, according to FT calculations.

Environmental campaigners have questioned how expansion of the aviation sector is compatible with the UK’s goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, given the industry does not have a commercially-proven pathway to reach the target. 

The government’s own climate change advisory body has recommended that no airport expansions should proceed until a UK-wide framework is in place to assess and control the sector’s emissions.

Industry executives have argued that expanding flying is compatible with reducing carbon emissions, pointing to their own pledge to reach net zero by 2050, which is chiefly based on the use of less polluting but currently expensive alternative fuels.

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