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London City Airport proposes thousands of extra Saturday flights despite opposition from East Londoners

Flights taking off from City Airport often travel over East London areas such as Bow and Poplar, causing concerns among residents about increased noise and pollution.

London City Airport is now consulting East Londoners on its plans to introduce thousands of extra flights on Saturday afternoons.

In December, the airport submitted an application to Newham Council proposing to extend its Saturday cut-off time for flights from 1pm to 6:30pm.

The plans also include twelve Saturday flights allowed between 6:30pm and 7:30pm during the summer months.

City Airport has now backtracked on proposals to extend Saturday flight times to 10pm following public consultation it carried out last year.

Although the airport admitted local communities have ‘legitimate concerns’ about noise, it is still proposing to extend Saturday flight times by up to seven hours.

A report on their previous consultation, which received more than 5,000 responses, said their new proposals ‘balance’ public concerns with the ‘operational and business need’ of the airport and its airlines.

The overwhelming concerns for most people were the effect extra flights would have on noise, air quality and climate change.

The report showed that 70% of people commenting online did not support passenger increases ‘at all’.

Taking into account the views of people consulted at ‘events’ and passengers travelling through the airport, 40% did not support any passenger increase.

Although the airport is not proposing to increase its 111,000 annual flight limit, it is hoping to increase the annual cap on passengers from 6.5 million to 9 million.

By comparison, in 2019, it saw about 84,000 flights on its runways, carrying a total of 5.1 million passengers.

Other proposals include allowing nine planes to take off or land between 6:30am and 6:59am each morning, an increase of three.

Flights taking off from City Airport often travel over East London areas such as Bow and Poplar, Leyton, Leytonstone, Wanstead, Barkingside and Romford.

Changes to London’s multiple flight paths in 2016 led to some Leyton residents complaining of ‘horrendous’ noise levels because they are often also below flights travelling to Heathrow.

London City Airport has promised to only use ‘cleaner, quieter, new generation’ aircraft during the extended hours.

But campaigner group HACAN East, set up to oppose the airport’s expansion, argue that these aircraft are only quieter during take-off because they rise at a ‘steeper angle’, with less noticeable improvements to noise during the rest of the flight.

Newham Council, which is considering the formal planning application, has now opened a statutory public consultation that will close on 27 February.

The full plans are now available to view and comment on Newham’s website by searching for planning reference ‘22/03045/VAR’.

Why does the airport want more Saturday flights?

City Airport said it is hoping to extend permitted flight hours to ‘offer more leisure routes’ and hub connections earlier in the day as well as ‘potentially lower fares’.

Later Saturday cut-off hours could also bring in flights from ‘more distant locations’.

It also wants to ‘incentivise’ airlines to invest in quieter and more fuel-efficient aircraft, particularly British Airways City Flyer which is based at the airport.

It argues that if no changes are allowed growth would be suppressed, ‘current inefficiency’ of aircraft use would continue and ‘noise benefits’ would be slower.

For more news about the local environment, see our articles about low-traffic neighbourhoods in Tower Hamlets.

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