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?