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

London City Airport’s plans to extend its flying time on Saturday afternoons have been rejected by Newham Council following hundreds of objections from residents and neighbouring boroughs.

Councillors on Newham’s strategic development committee – its equivalent of Greenwich’s planning board – were given a round of applause on Monday afternoon after unanimously voting against the plans. The council’s officers had recommended refusing the plans.

The airport, in the Royal Docks, wanted to extend its cut-off time for flights from 1pm on Saturdays to 6.30pm all year round and 7.30pm during the summer months, as well increasing its daily limit of flights from six to nine between 6.30am and 7am.

Take-offs and landings can be heard across Woolwich, Charlton, Thamesmead and the Greenwich Peninsula, while the incoming flightpath stretches over areas including Sidcup, Eltham and Catford before jets turn over central London to head for the runway.

Its chief executive, Robert Sinclair said the proposals were part of the plans to increase the number of annual passengers from 6.5 million to nine million by 2031.

“London City Airport is proud to call Newham home,” he told councillors.

“For over 35 years we’ve made a major contribution to Newham’s economy, including the Royal Docks. Over that time tens of thousands of residents have worked at the airport and today were one of Newham’s largest employers.”

Sinclair said the plans would increase the number of jobs available for local residents, would benefit local businesses and would result in more affordable flights to different destinations.

City Airport has pledged to use a “cleaner, quieter new generation aircraft” and said there would be thousands of jobs up for grabs for local people.

However the plans were met with 1,644 objections from nearby residents. Lewisham, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Southwark, Greenwich, Havering, Hackney and Tower Hamlets had all also objected.

For the past 25 years the airport has had a “weekend respite” which means planes are banned from flying between 1pm on Saturdays to 12.30pm on Sundays so residents can have a break from the noise.

Labour councillor Sarah Ruiz, who represents Custom House ward, just north of the airport, said her residents’ lives had been blighted by the airport, which opened in 1987.

She said: “Only yesterday afternoon I was in a garden in Custom House and it was impossible to sit and enjoy being there because of the noise. Twenty-four hours of quiet time is not a lot to ask for those residents whose lives have been blighted.”

Nate Higgins, a Green councillor for the Olympic Park, told the committee: “This airport is a blight on residents and an inexcusable misuse of land in such a densely populated London borough with exceptional links to central London. There is so much potential for this area but it’s being held back by a polluting airport which is causing misery and is used by so few.”

Liam McFadden, a Newham planning officer, said that the airport had placed little weight on the benefit of the 24 hours without flights to residents, saying that the losing the quiet time represented a “substantial harm”.

Both Labour and Conservative councillors in Greenwich have opposed the proposals for expansion. Lewisham Council has also come out strongly against the proposals. The London mayor’s office has also said it is unhappy about the plans.

Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain

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Ruby Gregory is the Local Democracy Reporter for Tower Hamlets. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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