For people already living close to City Airport life under the flight path is already tough.
The government’s expansion decision just means more people will be exposed to disruptive noise and air pollution. The cost of worsened quality of life, disturbed school lessons and increased respiratory illness will be felt by communities in Newham and other nearby London boroughs.
Tens of thousands of people will soon discover they are entering a new enlarged 57db noise contour, which signifies “onset of community annoyance”. Residents are yet again the forgotten victims of aviation’s relentless drive for profits forcing people to live in noisy conditions which are hard to endure and cause mental health issues.
Living conditions will be further degraded by loss of biodiversity. An expanded airport will mean expansion of the area devoid of trees to reduce the risk of bird strike for planes taking off and landing.
Eradicating any potential habitat for nesting birds creates an “urban desert” around the airport. It is not fair on children growing up and people living and working nearby to have their access to nature and biodiversity so curtailed.
Our ability to curb carbon emissions and global warming, the single biggest looming threat to our economy, wellbeing and long term prosperity has also been undermined by the decision.
I am no fan of Boris Johnson, but he understood the harmful implications. After directing Newham Council to refuse City Airport’s planning application for expansion, he set up a half a million pound fund to fight the airport’s planning appeal.
However, Sadiq Khan had other ideas and recently removed the former mayor’s objection to a Compulsory Purchase Order of GLA land to enable City Airport to expand. Thus removing a key obstacle for expansion and enabling yesterday’s government decision.
Our economy need not and should not be dependent on aviation expansion. According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, business trips abroad represent just 12% of all flights. This level has pretty much flat-lined for around 20 years.
Further our connectivity to Europe need not be dependent on air travel. The Eurostar is currently running at 60% of its potential capacity. This is a far less carbon intensive option that could provide for a further 10 million passengers each year.
But Eurostar is suffering from the lack of a level playing field when it comes to pricing.
The reason for this is a distorted market – trains going through the tunnel pay an arbitrary Eurotunnel fee (both per train and per passenger) that makes train travel relatively more expensive compared to air travel. At the same time, aviation doesn’t pay for it’s high cost in noise, pollution and CO2.
London could avoid the massive disruption to people’s lives and paying hundreds of millions to increase passenger capacity at City Airport, by sorting out this market to reflect the true costs and allow us to use the Eurostar more efficiently.
The author is a Green party member of the London Assembly