City airport: Homes in line for insulation

More than 3,500 new homes neighbouring London City Airport could be in line for sound insulation.

Over the next few months, inspections will take place on properties built after 1998 which were previously excluded from the airport’s noise mitigation schemes.

However, the decision to raise the cap on flights to 120,000 a year has triggered new noise and air quality stipulations – known as an S106 agreement – that make more stringent demands on the airport to be a good neighbour.

John East, divisional director for development services at the London Borough of Newham, said: "There are going to be about 3,500 properties to be inspected and depending on the results then go on to be treated but that gives an idea of the scale of the target as part of the S106 agreement."

He was speaking to the environment committee of the London Assembly which was assessing the measures set in place to cope with a doubling of air movements.

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The trigger for sound insulation comes at 57dB, lower than Heathrow which offers work at 63dB. Noise monitors would be placed in Tower Hamlets and Greenwich as well.

Peter Henson, partner at noise specialists Bickerdike Allen, which works with LCY, said: "The threshold of eligibility for sound insulation the same since 1991 when permission was given to operate jet aircraft.

"We’re also adding an enhanced second tier of works at 66dB where anybody exposed to higher levels of noise are now given extra protection."

A further measure is a purchase scheme for any home hit by 69dB, although it is unlikely to be triggered. The airport pays for all the work undertaken.

The committee heard that of 2010 of 55 environmental complaints, 36 relating to noise.

Mr East said: "The level of complaints is what you would expect. We’re working with the airport and through the fleet operators on how the noise levels of their fleet can be reduced. What the S106 has enabled us is to have much more monitoring of noise than we previously had."

Airport chief executive Richard Gooding said the noise and air quality measures had been set in place to cope with 120,000 movements a year but that was a top-level cap and not a figure likely in the near future.

He said: "Nobody accurately forecast what the impact of the recession would be and we’re in the short haul business travel market dominated by financial services and you don’t need any comment from me about what’s happened in the world of financial services so our core demand has reduced, we believe temporarily.

"Hence it’s 63,000 movements currently. We’ve been in the mid and upper 80s in the past."

He added: "We sought to make sure these measures were comprehensive and would stand the test of things like judicial reviews to see if our response was adequate or not.
"In the end it’s a matter of judgment but it’s very wide ranging and exceeds what other airports actually do."

Campaigners ‘should have a voice’

– The consultative forum for London City Airport should include campaigning groups and a representative of the London Assembly to take into account the views of people across the capital, the committee said.

Committee chairman said Murad Qureshi suggested that the organisation should include groups such as Hacan, which campaigns on behalf of residents affected by flight paths and airports.

Mr Gooding said he would be open to anything that would improve the work of the consultative body.

He said the airport aimed to be "a model of inclusivity" and that "megaphone diplomacy" never worked.

Air quality update

– London City Airport has reported no breaches of EU air quality guidelines so far this year.

But the London Assembly was also told there were two days when particulate levels were too high – although an official "exceedance" requires more than 30 such days.

Stephen Moorcroft, of Air Quality Consultants said much of the pollution was not related to the aircraft but was influenced by regional and even international pollution.

But assembly member Mike Tuffrey said: "I take no comfort from any explanation that says this is a regional factor. My view is we look for everybody in London to drive their numbers down."

The environment committee urged the airport to push forward with a plan to move more passengers from cars to public transport.

Currently just over 50 per cent use public transport, including the DLR and buses. Airport chief executive Richard Gooding said he aspired to hit 70 per cent.

He added: "New aircraft coming into operation are having a dramatically improved environmental performance. That is the strategic solution."

Future of Royal Docks

– Newham has shed more light on how it sees the Royal Docks emerging from years of decline.

Speaking at a meeting of the London Assembly environment committee, John East, divisional director for development services at the council, said London City Airport remained integral to the new enterprise zone.

"It brings jobs and economic benefits – and our thought process is how we can build on that."

He went on: "The London Development Agency is marketing key sites next to the airport and we would expect development to come forward in the next decade.

"We are also aware of the need to ensure new development is not put in locations where it would lead to unacceptable qualities of accommodation.

"We have clearly outlined where we see the balance between commercial and residential.

"We see the Royal Docks as being mixed use and creating employment opportunities.

"We don’t see any conflict between where the airport is going and our aspirations and the key things we’re taking a planned approach and where residential is being put in the Royal Docks – for example West Silvertown where Ballymore has significant developments – it is not impacted by the proposed expansion of the airport or how it operates at present."

Of the balance within the schemes he said West Silvertown would be "more residential"; Silvertown Quays "mixed use"; Royal Docks Business Park "predominantly commercial office developments" and Gallions Reach "mixed use with more employment".

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