Should City Airport Be Closed?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 30 months ago
Should City Airport Be Closed?
Photo by Dave Banbury from the Londonist Flickr pool

City Airport's a strange beast, isn't it? As a passenger it's brilliant. Quiet, unstressful, easy to get to. A convenient way to hop over to the continent. But it's also ridiculous. London has four major airports; why do we need another in zone 3?

We're bringing this up because Green mayoral candidate Sian Berry is proposing City Airport should be closed (PDF) and turned into space for new housing and businesses. It's not a completely random plan: the airport is currently up for sale, with various pension and sovereign wealth funds bidding around £2bn for it. The Greens want to convince the new owners to close it and do something else with the land.

A report from the New Economics Foundation calculated the airport contributed £110m to the UK economy in 2011, which is a fifth of what the nearby ExCel Centre adds. Merely expanding the airport would create 1,500 jobs — compare that to the 9,000 jobs that redeveloping Silvertown Quays is expected to deliver.

Fewer than 4m passengers use City every year. It's not like the capacity couldn't be absorbed elsewhere. And to serve those 4m passengers, 17,900 residents are disturbed by noise (expected to rise to 34,000 if the airport expands), including nine schools. 125,000 people live within two miles of the airport; Tower Hamlets and Newham are two of the worst boroughs in London for early deaths from air pollution and related diseases.

London, as we all know, is in the grip of a housing crisis. City Airport sits on 500,000m2 of land. Did we mention that it's in zone 3? Imagine if some of the government's £1.2bn fund to clean up brownfield land was ploughed into the area and we built a load of housing. And places for people to work. Much as we love City Airport the occasional times we use it, wouldn't it just be better for it to be something else? Like this?

Last Updated 18 January 2016

Continued below.


This is a fantastic idea! With Crossrail on the way, it'll be much quicker/easier for people to reach Heathrow anyway, making the convenience argument redundant.

Dan Appelquist

Don't even contemplate it! London City Airport is fantastic and if anything it needs further investment to increase capacity.


Shift the flights and capacity to Southend Airport, and extend Crossrail further east to accommodate this.

Paul Caudell

Feels alittle like this is just going to be more luxury flats...London doesn't need any more of those. Use the area for social housing? That I'd be behind.

Thomas Sutcliffe

Excellent idea, although like Paul Caudell below I would favour using the space for social housing.


The London housing crisis is not going to be solved by building a few more overpriced flats. We need to invest in commuter towns and rail links beyond Zone 5.

And anyway, City Airport is a necessity. Even if it becomes easier to get to Heathrow, it doesn't make it easier to get through Heathrow.. the whole process from security to boarding at City Airport takes less than 20 minutes. No other airport can compete.


In terms of housing, jobs and the opportunity to densify the surrounding area, closing City Airport would be beneficial for London. The entire Docklands is constrained in terms of development by the airport.

Rob Smith

Makes sense to me. It was OK when Docklands was just getting up and running, but there are more and more people living in that area and its not right to have an airport in the middle of a residential area. The airport is a lot busier than it was when it opened too.

Ray Lau

The government would have to commit to one of the many expansion proposal at the other airports first to extend their capacity, I wouldn't think that any of the other airports would want pick up the additional traffic without getting something in return


Well I definitely won't vote Green.
As a regular flyer from City to Ireland it is a joy not to have to tackle the horror that is Gatwick and Heathrow. City is especially good for those of us in SE London. Get off the plane & home in an hour.
Selfish maybe - but that's how many people vote.

Dennis McDonald

Goodness me! Time seems to fly by these days. Is it April 1st already? If this is a serious idea, it is a long time since I have seen anything so daft!!! London City Airport is a great asset to London, and indeed the entire UK. Certainly there will be an argument t o close it once the new Estuary Airport ("Boris Island") opens, but that will not happen in my lifetime, so I am stuck with current reality - which is that LCY provides a service above and beyond anything the numerous other 'London Airports' can offer, so must be retianed. The Green Party may think it is a good idea to stop us all flying anywhere, so let them come up with an alternative. They may feel that we need more housing, so where will they build it? (Perhaps THEY should reclaim some land in the Estuary, and put an estate there. (I won't object to that, so long as they leave enough space for the inevitable airport that will, in time, be needed there).


Yeah, I think it's inevitable that it'll be closed. It'll simply be worth more for real estate purposes than for use as an airport. The geography of it is quite unique also: there could be some really amazing masterplanning along the peninsula. Plus the DLR is already there, and Crossrail close by...which of course connects to Heathrow. So those 4m passengers could potentially shift to Heathrow, which erm sort of aids the argument for Heathrow expansion...hate to say it.

Stefan Stanislawski

I do not use City airport often but it is a gem. The low approach and necessarily small aircraft is as close to real flying as most of us will get. Do not see it just as an airport but living art. It is a fantastic resource, quirky and very London. Much better than more flats though we ought to build many many more homes. Bulldozing a unique resource is not the way to do that. Bulldozing the mediocre is a better solution. As usual the green party means well but has absolutely no clue.


London city airport is a massive contributor to the economy of East London and there are HUGE swathes of brown field sites that can be developed all around it. This makes no sense at all.

Iain Holder

Human selfishness seems to have very few limits. I can't believe some people have the audacity to complain that if it's closed they will have to queue up an additional 20 minutes at Gatwick. Have you any idea how many people live and work in that area and are affected by the noise of the fairly large jet aircraft? These people probably wouldn't mind a full length runway running though Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

As others have mentioned City Airport was a nice idea from a different age but things have moved on and it should be closed as soon as practical.

Generalissimo Pantalones

Let's make it a council housing estate, fill it with refugees. Put a rape crisis centre on every corner to shut up all the racists.


What a bizarre idea?

London City airport provides local jobs and opportunities to local people, makes London accessible to people within the UK and from overseas and is a great asset to the London Borough of Newham, one of the most deprived areas in the country.

As for housing, the logic behind that is a quick buck for developers but no real solution to housing needs, on that logic why not build on Hyde Park?


"Green mayoral candidate Sian Berry..."

That would be the Green Party that imposed poverty on families with limited incomes by foisting the need to pay for expensive and ludicrous 'green energy' schemes that make no economic sense and cost the taxpayer billions now that the price of oil has collapsed?

Michael Ruurds

Purchase a revenue-earning asset which employs locals for £2bn, gut it (write off the £2bn, lose the jobs and future earnings), then invest further money to develop residential and retail units. If this is 100% social housing then that means little to no immediate payback. Alternatively we end up with more overpriced apartments in East London, not addressing the needs of the locals. Doesn't make financial sense to me. Focus instead on buying brownfield sites held by investors and develop those.


Passenger numbers are increasing.



I live at custom house, so not far away from the airport, and honestly, it's not noisy. I love this airport, my family also love it, please do not close!


Just wait until there's an accident on take off or landing.. all the locals will then quickly change their tune. Airports do not belong in the inner city.


How is the noise complaint justified that there's now more people in the area than when it was built?
They must have known it was there when moving to the area, and aircraft are getting quieter now.
The whole area is generally quite loud as regards to background noise from the tall buildings - I never heard a plane when I was living near there.

This is just spite from the greenies who seem more concerned with stopping people travelling and just use the environment as an excuse.

we need more of these smaller airports around the country, so when electric planes come in then we can get to anywhere quickly and easily without costly high speed rail which only goes to fixed destinations - and I bet the greens will come up with some excuse against that too.

Tom Archer

When the airport opened they said they would land and take off over the Thames. That seems to have gone out the window . Planes taking of travaling east now turn left and fly over Dagenham then turn right . They could take off and turn left at Rainham Marshes over unpopulated land or stick to the origional plan and fly over the Thames . I have asked the Dagenham MP but he has not responded .

Tom Archer

They said ,before it was opened ,that flights would land and take off over the Thames . Who gave them pomision to do otherwise. With cross rail opening it is not required


Why are non-Londoners so obsessed with the TFL travel zones? They're totally arbitrary. You'll never hear a true Londoner talk about the zones, but people who move here won't shut up about it. They're totally arbitrary. It's not like London is only the City centre and West End. Often times it's not even any closer. There's an area near me where the zone is literally yards wide

David Bennett

They talk about moving the flights to an airport with spare capacity.

Which one?