London City Airport
London City Airport closed for a while at the start of the pandemic

Campaigners have voiced their relief at news that London City Airport has shelved plans to increase its operating hours.

The airport published its long-term vision for the future today after a consultation with neighbours and passengers last summer.

Campaign groups like Hacan East were previously concerned by suggestions the airport might seek to increase flights at the weekend, as well as earlier and later each day. 

However, following a huge drop in passengers due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chief executive Robert Sinclair says the airport’s focus “has to be on recovering” for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless London City Airport has not abandoned its long-term aim of 151,000 flights a year, which campaigners fear will have a serious impact on residents and the environment.

In response to “concerns raised by many who responded to the consultation”, the plans state the airport has “no immediate plans to extend the operating hours”.

However, it adds: “We will keep this under review as the airport recovers from the impact of the pandemic. 

“Should any future adjustments be proposed, these would be considered and consulted upon through the planning process before a decision is taken by the relevant authority.” 

Sinclair said: “It is clear that our focus has to be on recovering from the devastating impacts of Covid-19, supporting our communities and welcoming back passengers and airlines to London’s most central airport. While the shock of the pandemic has been significant, history shows us that aviation is an incredibly resilient industry as people’s desire to travel, whether for business or leisure, is never diminished for long.  

“As the country plans its recovery, I am convinced that aviation will play a key role as the UK builds back better.”

Hacan East chairman John Stewart said the news was a welcome development and the result of a “huge campaign” by both residents and local councils.

Newham, Tower Hamlets, Havering, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Lewisham and Hackney councils criticised the proposals. Greenwich also expressed concerns, as did London mayor Sadiq Khan.

John Stewart said: “Our concern remains that they would like to lift the annual cap on the number of flights to 151,000.

“Pre-Covid, the number of flights a year was around 82,000 so that’s almost double and would be a significant increase for local people. It’s a red line for us, we would be opposed to that.”
However, he said he did not believe the airport was likely to increase flights “any time soon” given the “massive difficulty” of recovering from Covid.

He added: “I think if there hadn’t been Covid, it would be a different matter altogether.”

Noise from takeoffs and landings can often be heard in the north of Greenwich borough, and many flights take off or land over Thamesmead and Belvedere. But since “concentrated flight paths” were introduced in 2016, many incoming flights follow the same route over Sidcup, Eltham, Catford, Forest Hill, Dulwich and Herne Hill before turning over Brixton, Stockwell and the Oval to head back towards the airport.

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Victoria Munro is the Local Democracy Reporter for Redbridge. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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