Sadiq Khan’s pollution pledges called into question with City Airport expansion approval

The approval of planning permission for a £344m expansion of London City Airport has been described by green groups as a "terrible" and "reckless" decision for the capital, with Mayor Sadiq Khan accused of backtracking on his pollution policies.

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon confirmed the approval during a visit to the airport early yesterday morning (27 July), following initial confirmation from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

The Airport expansion plans include an additional runway, extended terminals and upgraded transport links; allowing for a 40% increase in the number of flights and a rise in the number of take offs and landings from 70,000 to 111,000 a year.

The decision has been condemned by a number of environmental campaigners and political parties, considering London took just one week to breach its annual air pollution limits for 2016.

WWF-UK’s climate and aviation specialist James Beard said: “It is reckless and irresponsible for the Government to keep on expanding UK airport capacity without having a robust and credible plan to tackle the polluting emissions of all these extra flights.

“This announcement ignores the environmental costs of airports expansion, putting even greater pressure on our domestic and international commitments to tackle climate change. The Government must secure a strong international agreement on aviation emissions through the UN aviation agency ICAO this autumn, and limit aviation emissions to safe levels.”

‘Disappointing decision’

London Mayor Khan has been heavily criticised for his decision to remove an objection to the planning permission, which was initially instated by Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson.

Maria Castellina from Friends of the Earth said: “It’s disappointing that Sadiq Khan, who has said air pollution must be a top priority, removed a key obstacle to this expansion. He must now stand up for Londoners’ lungs, be consistent on air pollution and commit to bringing London’s air pollution down to legal and safe limits by 2020.”

The Mayor also received backlash from Green Assembly member Sian Berry – the Green Party candidate who stood against Khan in the Mayoral election. When Khan removed Johnson’s objection to the planning permission in May, Berry said: “This is a terrible start for the Mayor, putting paid to his pledge to be the greenest Mayor London’s had.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said: “The Mayor decided to withdraw the objection following new evidence submitted by City Airport and ongoing negotiations. The Mayor continues to support the case for improved noise mitigation.”

Supplier licence

Khan has otherwise been praised for making a number of green policy commitments over the past few months. On the 60th anniversary of the UK’s Clean Air Act, Khan announced a wide-ranging action plan to tackle toxic air in the capital, including the implementation of clean bus corridors, an extension of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and an emissions surcharge on the most polluting vehicles.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, the Mayor applied for his own junior electricity supply licence as a personal contribution towards his plans to help London achieve the target of becoming a zero-carbon emission zone by 2050.

This licence will effectively allow the purchase of low-carbon energy generated from London boroughs and public bodies and the ability to sell it to various organisations. Khan plans initially to sell the energy onto Transport for London, with further plans sell to the Metropolitan Police and the NHS.

Alex Baldwin & Luke Nicholls

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