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Bonkers Blog September 2019

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5 September - Gate crashing City Airport

One of the possibly throw away lines by Tim Hulley, City Airport’s Director of Infrastructure and Planning, at the meeting last Tuesday in Belvedere was that any “stakeholder” could go to their quarterly consultative meetings. I’ve never been sure what defines a stakeholder but I do know that Bexley Council’s delegated airport stakeholder is Councillor James Hunt. I also know that James has been in trouble with his Labour colleagues for not attending any of the meetings and I have heard his excuses.

I looked up when the next meeting was to be held and discovered it was to be this afternoon in Newham’s swanky new headquarters overlooking the airport runway. I was due in East Ham anyway so escaped early presenting myself at the reception desk as a stakeholder for Thamesmead. The airport PR people welcomed me with open arms. Nobody had represented Thamesmead before. (It was only a small fib.)

Ten minutes later Councillor James Hunt rolled up having taken a half day off work. We sat together to see if we would learn anything. The presentation was a slightly extended version of what was shown in Belvedere two days earlier so I didn’t learn a lot that was new. James who had mugged up on the Airport Master Plan on-line was probably the same.

It soon became apparent that the failure to invite James to previous meetings was not special treatment meted out to him. Three Councillors from other boroughs made the same complaint.

So what was new compared to Tuesday?

Despite passenger numbers being up by 42% in the past five years aircraft movements are down. I learned that the overnight flight curfew caused massive inconvenience to delayed passengers who are diverted to Stansted etc. all over a couple of minutes lateness with the knock on effect of the aircraft not being available for an early morning departure. The word flexibility was mentioned but without any intention to change the basic opening hours.

There was confirmation that a new generation of aircraft, some are already operating from London City, will be noticeably quieter on take off but not a great deal better on the landing approach. The diagram below indicates the old (blue) and new (orange) ground level noise at two decibel levels.

The bad news is that it will be 15 years before the quieter aircraft become 75% of the total. (The current new planes are operated by Swiss Air, the ones with the big red cross on the tail fin.)

To the surprise of many it was said that the old propeller driven aircraft were noisier on landing than any of the current jets but quieter on take off however the fact remains that with more aircraft movements the gaps between them will be shorter; speaking of which between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. I noted only two landings but from 5 p.m. to 6 planes were taking off very frequently.

The airport people were at pains to say that their Master Plan was only their forecasts and initial ideas and that they had made up their minds on nothing. It has no statutory force. There was widespread cynicism.

A Councillor from Lewisham had a big bee in her bonnet about climate change and so didn’t really want anyone to fly at all. She got very close to calling the airport management liars. Someone from a group called Stop City Airport went further and said they were all “duplicitous”.

A Greenwich Councillor read a question from a sheet of A4 and freely admitted she didn’t have any idea what the question meant. Presumably she didn’t understand the answer either.

There were at least five of us who were no more than resident busybodies some a lot more knowledgeable than others. A lady who lived at the eastern end of the runway seemed to be reasonably content with her lot whilst others from as far away as Lewisham and Lambeth were not.

In my humble opinion James Hunt’s absence from earlier meetings has made no material difference to any Bexley resident. One might argue that Bexley Council should have nominated a Thamesmead East Councillor to be the airport delegate but that is not the way the Tories work. In practice it doesn’t make a scrap of difference, if any of the Labour Councillors are serious about defending their residents right to a quiet life they can take a seat alongside James Hunt. As I proved this afternoon there is nothing to stop them taking an afternoon off work as James did.

Aggrieved residents could go too.


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