Opinion piece written by John Stewart, chair HACAN East, for the Newham Recorder
Boris Johnson’s decision to refuse London City permission to expand may have come as a surprise but it was always on the cards that somebody would stand up to the airport. London City is paying the price about being so cavalier about noise.
It has a history of refusing to engage with residents and elected councillors over its plans. Last year it came up with proposals to concentrate its flight paths over certain communities yet it refused to leaflet the areas involved or come to talk with any local authority except Newham. Residents were frustrated, councillors were furious and the Greater London Authority wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport criticizing the airport’s behaviour.
In turning down the expansion application, the London Mayor showed he simply did not believe London City’s claims that an expanded airport, using larger planes, would mean less noise.
Newham is the one borough which has consistently – and controversially – backed the airport. It does so on the basis it provides jobs. In fact, the number of people employed by the airport is surprising small, less than 1,000, with another 2,000 or so jobs indirectly dependent on it.
Since the Mayor’s decision, London City spin doctors have gone into overdrive citing jobs that would be created by the expansion plans. Be very wary! There are less jobs at the airport now than in 2009 when it said it would create 1,500.
The airport’s lack of honesty – be it about noise or jobs – has proved its downfall. Local people, elected councillors and the Mayor of London simply don’t believe what it says. Unless it cleans up it act, people may start to question whether East London needs it at all. It has become the embarrassing relative amongst the exciting new developments which are taking place in the Royal Docks.