Greens call for allotments, not airports

By Rob Virtue on April 19, 2012 11:14 AM |

city airport.jpg

It's enjoying rising passenger figures, flights to more destinations and looking forward to a bumper Olympics.

However, if mayoral candidate for the Green Party Jenny Jones gets her way London City Airport would be shut down to make way for vegetable patches.

A long-time campaigner against flights, Ms Jones told The Wharf this week she had grand plans for replacing the Docklands site with allotments or other green initiatives.

And her comments have been picked up by campaigners against aviation expansion who say with Crossrail on the horizon London's business community should head to Heathrow instead.

Ms Jones said: "The real problem with City is planes are flying over all day and every day.

"City Airport doesn't function in the way a transport hub should. It must be awful for those living nearby. It's bad enough at Heathrow but there's more space around there.

"We should use the land for affordable housing, allotments or a green industrial park."

The mayoral candidate added the airport was mostly used by high-earning corporate clients who should look elsewhere for flights.

"I don't think [closing City Airport] would be a loss to London," said Ms Jones. "We've got Heathrow with Crossrail to link to it. We have to slow down the advance in aviation. Climate change is something most people choose to ignore but they shouldn't."


While Ms Jones' hopes of taking the role currently occupied by Boris Johnson are slim - Ladbrokes rate her chances at 200-1 to win - her comments have earned backing from some quarters.

John Stewart, chairman of Hacan East which represents residents under London City and Heathrow flight paths, said: "When I first heard the idea of closing the airport I thought it was far fetched but when you speak to Jenny Jones and others maybe it's not. When Crossrail is in place and brings Docklands within half an hour of Heathrow then clearly there's an alternative.

"If City Airport wasn't there it would reduce noise and air pollution for the local communities.

"If developers were interested in putting a development there that creates as many jobs as City Airport does and creates money for the community - it could be win-win."

However, current mayor Boris Johnson, and a growing number of Government frontbenchers, are calling for an urgent increase in flights so London can keep up with other major European cities.

One of the options ruled out is a third runway at Heathrow. Mr Stewart has called instead for east London passengers to fill "half-empty Heathrow planes".

City Airport is keen to challenge each of the accusations presented by activists. In a statement the company pointed out it is restricted from flying at night and also has a 24 hour break over weekends.

It adds: "The airport's Sound Insulation Scheme has the lowest daytime trigger level of any airport in the UK and is recognised by the London Assembly's environment committee as exemplary.

"The airport also has a comprehensive Air Quality Monitoring Programme to ensure that its operations do not adversely affect local communities and LCY has worked closely with its stakeholders to promote the use of sustainable transport - the airport has the highest percentage of passengers using public transport to access the airport of any airport in the UK."

As for the calls for it to close, it pointed out it generated "over £500million for the national economy each year", has created 2,000 jobs and been "a catalyst for positive change in the area".

And it sees the arrival of Crossrail - scheduled for 2018 - as bringing more passengers to the east rather than heading west to Heathrow. An interchange at Woolwich would see it just two stops away on the DLR.

"The estimated journey time to the Docklands from Heathrow is 41 minutes, with additional time to clear immigration and customs as necessary - which for time-constrained business travellers is a significant surface journey," said the airport.

"Compare that to the LCY proposition of 10 minutes from wheels down to taxi rank or DLR, and a three mile journey to Canary Wharf."

While the airport states the future is good, Mr Stewart cites claims from activists that one of the two major airlines at City Airport, CityJet, is about to axe 500 jobs and is likely to decrease operations as a sign of the transport hub's decline.

However, while a spokeswoman for Cityjet admits some "cost-cutting measures" including redundancies were under consideration, she denied these were on the scale reported by the lobbyists.

She also said a reduction in services was not on the agenda and pointed out the recent summer schedule saw an increase in flights between London City and Dublin and a new route to Brest in France.

This expansion did come at a time when BA boosted routes to become the largest airline at the airport but the spokeswoman insisted London City was still very much important to Cityjet.

"London City is moving forward," she said. "We find the airport to be a lynchpin in what makes us unique and strong and will get us through the downturn within the industry in general."


Michael said:

Where is the 500 jobs going from Cityjet number coming from. Is there a source for that or is it made up? If Cityjet lost that many jobs it would have to close.

If the lobbyists are making stuff up should anyone be bothered listening to them?