by John Stewart
Last week the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, turned down City Airport’s application to expand on noise grounds. Although the decision caught people by surprise, there was a widespread feeling that the airport had it coming because of the cavalier way it has dealt with residents, local authorities and elected politicians over the years. I spelt this out in an opinion piece for the Newham Recorder:http://www.hacaneast.org.uk/?p=643
The question must arise: would City Airport’s attitude have been different if it was dealing with a wealthier population? We will never know for sure it certainly impacts on some of the poorest communities in the UK.
According to the latest Indices of Deprivation (2010), Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest are among 15 most deprived local authorities in the country. And Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Lewisham and Lambeth make it into the top 50. Moreover, Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets have highest percentage of deprived people in the UK (1).
They will also be the communities which fly the least. They are the victims of what Les Blomberg, the executive director of the US-based Noise Pollution Clearing House called ‘second-hand noise’: “noise that is experienced by people who did not produce it. Like second-hand smoke, it’s put into the environment without people’s consent and then has effects on them that they don’t have any control over.”
A good neighbour would tailor its strategy, and particularly its communications, to the needs of its communities. In areas of real deprivation, variable online skills and limited access to technology, a good neighbour would ensure it provided plenty of leaflets and regular face-to-face meetings with the public. It would make sure its materials were written in clear, simple language.
London City simply does not do this. The recent consultation on its plans to concentrate its flight paths over particular communities was a prime example. The consultation took the form of putting a technical document on its website and of informing its supine consultative committee. Nothing more. No leafleting of the areas that would be affected. And by only consulting online, City Airport effectively disenfranchised a huge number of people. Across the UK, 21% of people can’t operate online, but amongst C2, D and E classes it is 72%; and for those in 65+ bracket it is 52% (2).
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that London City Airport, rather than trying to tailor its work to meet the needs of the area it impacts, is using the demographics of the area to get away with doing as little as possible.
(2). Media Literacy: Understanding Digital Capabilities follow-up; Ipsos Mori, 2014