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London City Airport’s Expansion Plans Blocked by Local Authority

The city-center London airport had requested permission to extend its operating hours on weekends, but it has been rejected due to concerns over noise pollution and emissions

by Fergus Cole

July 17, 2023

Photo: London City Airport. Courtesy of Kate Olfans / Unsplash

Plans to expand London City Airport (LCY) have hit a roadblock after the local authority of Newham Council voted unanimously to block the expansion.

The city-center airport—ideal for business travelers with tight schedules due to its proximity to London’s city center compared to Heathrow and Gatwick—has been planning to boost its total passenger capacity from 6.5 million to 9 million travelers annually. One way it proposed to do this would be by extending its operating hours during the weekend, which have been restricted by a 25-year curfew.

Photo: London City Airport. Courtesy of ANDREW BAKER

However, following around 1,600 complaints from residents and concerns raised by at least eight local councils, Newham Council’s Strategic Development Committee rejected the proposals due to the potential impact of noise pollution and harmful emissions on the local area.

London City Airport planned to extend its operating hours on Saturdays to 6:30 PM local time and add three flights between 6:30 AM and 7:30 AM from Mondays to Fridays. However, a curfew has been in place for 25 years, restricting flights between 1:00 PM on Saturdays and 12:30 PM on Sundays due to noise pollution.

Photo: Courtesy of London City Airport

The airport also promised residents and authorities that new, quiet, and clean aircraft would operate additional flights during these extended hours. According to the airport, the plans would also provide thousands of jobs to the local economy.

“In formulating these proposals, we have worked incredibly hard and thought incredibly hard about achieving the right balance, recognizing the interests of local residents and how we can improve the environmental impact of our operations, in particular noise and emissions,” said Robert Sinclair, chief executive of London City Airport.

“Extending the operating period on Saturday afternoons will allow our airlines to serve the very significant demand for travel on weekends, with flights leaving and returning on the same day, giving more choice and more destinations.”

Photo: Courtesy of London City Airport

A London City Airport spokesperson said it was “extremely disappointed” with Newham Council’s decision to block its expansion plans. “Our proposals will create almost 2,200 jobs at the airport, support an additional 2,300 London jobs through tourism and increased business productivity, contribute an additional £702 million in gross value added to London’s economy and improve connectivity for passengers,” said the spokesperson.

“Our proposals include no more flights than are currently permitted and – a UK airport first – a commitment that only cleaner, quieter, new generation aircraft will be allowed to fly in any extended periods. We firmly believe in our proposals, which are carefully balanced and make best use of our infrastructure. We are actively considering next steps.”

While London City Airport’s expansion has been put on hold for now as it awaits a final decision from the Greater London Authority (GLA), other airports in the UK capital have been going ahead with their expansion plans.

Photo: Courtesy of London City Airport

Just last week, London Gatwick Airport (LGW) formally submitted its plans to bring its second runway into permanent commercial use, which would help it to double its passenger capacity and rival London Heathrow Airport (LHR) as the city’s main hub.

London Stansted Airport (STN) has also recently announced plans to expand its terminal building to boost capacity, London Luton Airport (LTN) plans to build a new terminal and taxiway in an attempt to increase passenger numbers to more than 30 million per year, and controversial plans to build a third runway at Heathrow are still undergoing review.