Should London City Airport be closed?
A think tank has said that London City Airport should be closed and the site redeveloped to create jobs, boost local business and build new homes.
It claimed the airport creates little value, despite taking up 500,000 square metres of prime land in the heart of the city, and contributed only £110 million to the UK economy in 2011, which was less than a fifth of the nearby ExCeL Exhibition centre. But will this land provide the type of homes needed to solve the housing needs, or will it simply create an exclusive waterfront property island?
A London City Airport spokeswoman said the airport “facilitates inward investment and economic growth”, but the report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) said it accounted for only 2.4% of London’s flights and its passengers could use Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted instead.
There is clearly a lack of runway capacity for London for the foreseeable future, hence the plans for expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick. There are the more remote “London” airports such as Stansted and Luton and the smaller regional “London” airports such as Farnborough, Biggin Hill and Oxford. But in all cases the biggest issue is getting from the airport to the ultimate destination in London. Battersea is the only option for helicopter landings, but it is on the wrong side of the river for the majority of destinations and a long drive to the City.
Manston, Kent International Airport, has a long runway and the capacity for significant traffic, but it is about to close as its current owners cannot make it financially viable.
We do not believe that any of our current aviation infrastructure should be closed, as more will be needed in the future, and gaining consent for new runways will be difficult. By keeping existing infrastructure it allows for future growth in areas that are used to aviation and can benefit from the industry it brings.
There are many regional airports capable of serving London, but in order for them to do so there has to be a viable infrastructure for the journey to the final destination. However, creating road and rail infrastructure is both costly and time consuming.
Perhaps the solution requires a more radical initiative to increase the number of heliports in London and to facilitate the use of air taxis into London City Airport. This would ease the pressure on the main London airports and would keep many regional industries in business. Air safety could be maintained by creating specific corridors for helicopters and air taxis operations.