As London City Airport sits in the global shop window, a battle is brewing between London business groups and London Mayor Boris Johnson over the future of the Docklands hub.
It was the Mayor who turned down LCY’s £200million expansion plans in March, saying they would leave residents dealing with unacceptable levels of noise. The airport’s management immediately launched an appeal.
Now the mayor has secured £525,000 to defend his decision to overrule Newham Council’s approval of the planning application.
Business groups have condemned his continued opposition as “perverse”. The mayor has welcomed substantial inward investment in the Royal Docks, notably the Asian-led ABP, which has the airport at its heart.
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His action comes at a time when a number of sovereign wealth funds and global investors are eyeing up the business airport, with a price tag of around £2billion, after the present owners decided to sell quickly to take advantage of favourable market conditions. The Mayor’s continued opposition to expansion could be a stumbling block.
London First says it sees the airport as essential as an engine for regeneration and jobs in east London, the same argument that persuaded Newham Council to back the expansion plans in the face of local opposition.
Director of infrastructure policy at London First David Leam said: “Resisting improvements to City Airport is a waste of public money which does nothing to help the capital get the air connectivity the economy needs.
“The airport’s plan has the backing of Newham Council, the business community, and even the Mayor’s own officers in the Greater London Authority. The Mayor’s decision to spend money trying to block improvements at City Airport is perverse.”
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (LCCI) director of policy and public affairs, Sean McKee, has also come out in support of the expansion plans: “London City Airport is a successful port of entry to our capital. Its plans to enhance its operations and make best use of its limited land area should be supported, not thwarted, by the Mayor.
“Perhaps the most concerning aspect of this puzzling decision is the signal it may send to international investors.
“If a move by the private owners of a strategic asset to London, like City Airport are willing to invest even further, and boost the capital’s economy in the process, is blocked, then how on earth will that instil trust and confidence among other investors in London as a good place to put their funds?”
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Under the City Airport Development Programme (CADP), the terminal would be extended and seven new stands for aircraft introduced. The proposals included an increase in the number of take-offs and landings to 111,000, almost doubling the number of passengers to six million annually by 2023.
The airport said that CAPD could have delivered an additional £750million per year to the UK economy and 2,000 new jobs in Newham and the east of London.
The airport’s chief executive officer Declan Collier said at the time of the Mayor’s decision: “It is ironic that the Mayor of London, whose platform has always been one of advantage for business in London, is denying the capital the business opportunity presented by growth at London City Airport.”
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “The Mayor has a responsibility to ensure that London’s strategic planning interests are taken into account and he directed Newham council to refuse London City Airport’s planning application due to concerns about the noise impact of their plans.”Reg