Newham approves expansion at London City Airport
Last night Plane Stupid had the opportunity to witness the failure of democracy first hand, as Newham councillors voted 5-1 in favour of a 50% increase in the number of flights using London City Airport (LCA), accepting the airport's generous promise of a one million pound sweetener to spend on noise abatement in the area.
This was in the face of a flash-mob gathered outside the town hall and in the teeth of the large number of very pissed off residents who had come to register their objections, telling tales of noise intrusion and asthma mortality for the communities living around the airport. A local teacher told how his students had carried out a project monitoring aircraft noise around their neighbourhood over a number of months, and consistently read average levels of 85 – 90db. This is well in excess of what the airport admits to – anything over 57db is judged to be a nuisance.
This turned out to be rather easy to explain, as Neil Pearce from Fight the Flights, the local campaign group, noted that the airport hasn't actually taken any reliable measurements since 2000. This means that the levels in the application are from data that is over 8 years old – a fact which the airport's noise advisor did not deny, but instead gave an inscrutable excuse for and shrugged apologetically. Annie Griffin, also from Fight the Flights, pointed out that the public consultation itself seemed suspiciously partial, with only 10,000 letters being sent out to the 11,000 – 30,000 people about to be trodden on by an “increased noise footprint”. Hmm, this all sounds strangely familiar from somewhere. I can hear the lawyers sharpening their pencils already.
Plane Stupid were there to talk about climate change of course, and the forthcoming collision between the UK's climate strategy and the current looking-more-and-more-mental-every-day aviation policy which has guided LCA's expansion proposals. In return, we heard repeated the same tripe the government always says when talking about how many airports it wants to expand, but this time from out of the mouth of the airport's environmental pollution weasel. Turning to address the climate campaigners in the room directly, he very nearly winked as he explained how there's no need to worry about anything as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is going to sort it all out, along with the now obligatory commitment to carbon-neutrality at the airport itself (just don't mention all the planes).
Much the best thing about the event was seeing locals express their disgust with the proceedings by interrupting the suits from the airport whenever they said something especially outrageous, and then either getting kicked out or storming out themselves. The airport boss was infuriatingly smug and complacent throughout, appearing, curiously, to somehow know in advance that he was going to get what he wanted. But we did manage to wipe the smirk off his face for one fleeting moment by throwing paper aeroplanes at him and his henchmen, before being turfed out ourselves.
Lots of drama, but very little actual democracy in attendance at Newham Council's Development Control Committee. Looks like we'll just have to DIY it as usual…