City Airport expansion is a boost for London

Christian May
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London City Airport's £344m expansion scheme gets green light (Source: Getty)

Recent political events have thrown any decision on UK airport expansion further into doubt. Even before the referendum and subsequent resignation of David Cameron, it was tough to pin down exactly what the government was minded to do about the pressing need to expand capacity in the south east.

Throughout the debate (which looks set to rumble on into the autumn) this paper has consistently made the case for a smaller yet nevertheless vital element of expansion strategy: approving the development of London City Airport. Plans to expand the terminal, build seven new stands and a larger taxiway to accommodate bigger, quieter aircraft were backed by Newham Council last year but scuppered by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who chucked the full weight of City Hall behind blocking the project.

Read more: Khan backs Gatwick expansion over Heathrow during trip to airport

Thankfully, one of Sadiq Khan's first decisions as Johnson's successor was to lift City Hall's objection. This is a rare example of a politician's actions matching his rhetoric, with Khan having pledged to make London more open to the world than ever before. His decision, which deserves praise from the City, paved the way for the new government to give the green light to the £344m expansion scheme. New jobs will be created, more passengers will be attracted and every City worker's favourite airport will benefit from investment in transport links and improved facilities.

Yesterday's news came as the FTSE100 hit a 12 month high and the FTSE250 soared back to pre-referendum levels. Chancellor Philip Hammond toured the east London airport yesterday, determined to associate the announcement with evidence of wider economic success.

Read more: Get your passport: London City Airport is expanding in a £344m deal

Positive GDP figures provided the backdrop for Hammond, along with the skyline of Canary Wharf, but in truth the airport decision that British business really wants made concerns expansion at either Heathrow or Gatwick. With so much uncertainty surrounding the UK's post-Brexit role in the world and relationship with the EU, the government can make no bigger statement of confidence than to get off the fence and get behind expansion.

A green light for either Gatwick or Heathrow (not forgetting the optimists who favour expansion at both) would reassure businesses and investors at home and abroad. Business groups are crying out for such an announcement from government and they should not be kept waiting any longer.

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