“In our first visit to Newham we encountered the inspiration for our project. Our group explored Newham and its various players, including the London City Airport. It was here that we discovered a small neighbourhood that seemed to be completely cut off from the rest of the Borough. Sandwiched between the airport and what looked like an abandoned factory, the neighbourhood of North Woolwich showed signs of isolation and community neglect. Many times throughout our visit, the noise pollution from passing airplanes was so powerful that we had to pause conversations. Between the physical landscape of the area and the constant noise pollution, our group instantly noticed many examples of social and environmental injustice.
As we focused in on this neighbourhood, our research presented a clear theme: London City Airport is an unkind neighbour, taking what it needs from the neighbourhood and giving little back. The airport does little to acknowledge the surrounding community, doing only the bare minimum to look good in press releases. The abandoned factory we noticed on our first visit actually serves as the antithesis for how the London City Airport has acted in the neighbourhood. In the 20th century, the Tate and Lyle Sugar Factory brought pride and community to North Woolwich, employing hundreds of local residents and acting as a community partner. This only further underscored the pain that London City Airport has caused.
After extensive research, our group began to conceptualize potential interventions for the community. One path could have been to imagine North Woolwich without the airport in it, but we felt that this disregarded the damage which the airport has already caused. Additionally, we acknowledge that air travel will retain popularity at least in the foreseeable future. Instead, we chose a vision for the neighbourhood in which London City Airport claims accountability and repairs the damage it has caused over the decades of its existence. We hope that the messages from our project may provide some insight when considering the future of airports across the globe.”
With the looming threat of the climate emergency, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to redefine our daily life, we must take a look at many of the pieces of infrastructure that we have essentialized to see if we can re-imagine them. Airports, and the negative externalities they engender, must take priority (Kurniawan & Khardi, 2011: 241).
To begin re-imagining such an integral piece of infrastructure, one must first understand what an airport is and what role it plays in the modern day. Fundamentally, an airport functions as a piece of infrastructure which connects a city or region to other places both domestically and abroad. The existence of airports sustains the globalised society which has dominated the twenty-first century. In abstract terms, airports are physical representations of international flows of people, capital and ideas which require massive amounts of investment to stay attune with contemporary needs. Their importance at local and national scales makes them prime targets for regulation and taxation by federal governments. For example, a tax levied on all flights departing from and arriving at United Kingdom airports, the Air Passenger Duty, generates an estimated £3.2 billion annually for the federal government (Seely, 2021). However, despite the important and lucrative nature of airports, their existence drives massive amounts of pollution which cannot be written off.
Thus, one must understand airports beyond their function as facilitators of travel and development. As nodes for aeroplanes, airports contribute to consolidated zones for increased noise and air pollution which acutely affect those who reside within them. In the age of the climate emergency, airports exemplify how pieces of infrastructure that are generally considered essential are major contributors to the degradation of the global climate. As such, governments are increasingly targeting the aviation industry, and specifically airports, as zones for increased regulation to meet carbon neutrality goals. The Jet Zero plan published by the U.K. government in 2021 promulgates a 30-year plan for achieving carbon-neutrality for the aviation industry by 2050 (Department for Transport, 2021). Importantly, the plan mandates that all airport operations achieve full decarbonization by 2040 (Department for Transport, 2021). The aviation industry as it is currently known faces an existential threat that forces essential elements, like airports, to reconsider their operations.
London’s poorest borough, Newham, houses an airport that desperately needs to be re-imagined (Trust for London, n.d). Currently, investment into the London City Airport (LCY) fails to produce significant tangible positive impacts for the local community which faces heightened disadvantages due to its proximity. Our report aims to imagine this existing airport in the face of growing regulations to become a beacon for sustainable, just and distributive development in alignment with our definition of urban ecological justice. The report will first introduce relevant literature which provides the theoretical foundation upon which we conducted our research before enumerating our findings. It will then present our intervention and the intended results. Ultimately, our intervention represents what an airport of the twenty-first century could achieve if the goals of being ecologically just and socially restorative are prioritised.
Figure 2.A: Location of London city airport in Newham
To adequately compose an intervention that addressed the true breadth of failure of the London City Airport to deliver urban ecological justice in its current operation, we needed to develop a comprehensive and methodical research plan. An archival visit at the beginning of our research phase provided two elemental pieces of information. First, we learned from archived newspaper articles the true extent of controversy that the airport grew out of and could begin to understand how unwanted the project was from its onset. Second, archival maps from 1863, 1894, and 1916 illustrated the rapid residential development of the site during those years which coincided with the immense success of the Tate & Lyle Sugar Refinery. Together, we could better understand how the airport fits into a much longer and more complex history of development and community for this area.
Ethnography through interviews targeted at specific important actors in the area provided both an understanding of current attitudes of LCY and better information regarding how the airport’s development reverberates throughout the borough. Speaking with members of the Newham Council, like Patrick Murphy, along with local residents and workers helped us gauge the ways LCY intersects with daily life in the area. Moreover, speaking with tangential actors to the airport, like the sustainability manager at the University of East London, illuminated exactly how proximity to the airport stymies sustainability initiatives for these groups.
II. LITERATURE REVIEW
To begin, this report will offer a robust definition of urban ecological justice that synthesises current literature and situates it within the context of the selected site. This section will cover theories mentioned in the existing literature on the topic while also identifying ancillary terms which will be relevant in both our analysis of the site and the intervention we will later propose.
Humans depend on non-human ecologies to sustain everyday life. Ignoring the responsibility of society to act as a steward and protector of these ecosystems would be a failure to truly deliver ecological justice (Yaka, 2018). Since non-human ecosystems are grounded in specific spatial and temporal contexts which often overlap with human ones, we cannot write off the urban as a space which does not need to account for them. If anything, the urban plays an elemental role in protecting and nurturing non-human ecosystems for how much development necessitates the expropriation of these spaces. Thus, imagining an ecologically-just airport requires understanding the impact of the development beyond that which affects just human actors.
Defining ecological justice as justice to, for and of nature provides a critical lens for interpreting the complex relationship between the London City Airport and the various urban injustices which affect the area around it (Pineda-Pinto et. al, 2021). The explicit inclusion of nature in ecological justice theory sets itself apart by placing nature as a central actor in these discussions and asserting that society cannot be separated from the natural world (Pineda-Pinto et al., 2021). Achieving ecological justice requires acknowledging those human communities most acutely impacted by poorly kept environments which face above-average exposure to the negative externalities of these spaces (Freije, 2020; Haigh et al., 2020). Thus, our definition of ecological justice argues for the fair distribution of environmental goods and ills through recognition of nature’s capability to flourish and by ensuring the active participation of nature and vulnerable communities in shaping their environment (Pineda-Pinto et. al, 2021).
To properly understand the relationship between the London City Airport and its local environment, one must situate it within the idea of extractive urbanism. Infrastructure plays an integral role as the circulatory system which facilitates movement both within and beyond a city. As such, its construction is an inevitability of development which often becomes routinized to a point of “banality or invisibility” (Hetherington & Campbell, 2014, p. 191). The London City Airport represents a dominant infrastructure whose physicality has come to define the spatial fabric of the surrounding area. Unfortunately, it is often the most disadvantaged communities who experience the harshest negative consequences of major-works projects and for those in close proximity to deleterious infrastructure, particularly airports, it is impossible to be considered invisible (Freije, 2020; Haigh et al., 2020). Thus, the airport is extractive in its presence because it actively disadvantages the surrounding area without recompense.
Ultimately, our report seeks to provide a framework for bringing ecological justice to the urban context of the area surrounding the London City Airport through socially restorative urbanism. Socially restorative urbanism as a concept encourages processes of occupation and territorial negotiation in line with the principles of ecological justice (Thwaites, Mathers & Simkins, 2013). Envisioning how the spatial dimension of cities can act as a mediator between nature, society, industry and development in a way that is equitable and cognizant of its past lies at the core of the theory. Thus, the process restores agency to the actors who have been marginalised in the past in order to nurture the creation of spaces which represent the desires of the whole and not just the privileged.
Figure 2B: Archival images of protests held in Newham against the construction of London City Airport
III. UNDERSTANDING THE SITE
Understanding the rich industrial past of our site provides an essential foundation for diagnosing and comprehending the issues experienced today. While the airport’s presence is fairly recent, the neighbourhood surrounding it long predates it. Primarily, the neighbourhood occupying the land of our site grew from the success of the industry which comprises its Southern border: the Tate & Lyle Sugar Factory.
When the Tate & Sons and Lyle & Sons companies conglomerated in 1921, they formed the largest sugar refinery in the world for its time (Tate & Lyle, n.d.). As the factory necessitated an immense number of workers, the demand led to the rapid residential development in the hinterland between the Royal Docks and the factory. The neighbourhood, populated primarily by Tate & Lyle employees and their families, became intrinsically tied to the industry and the community it created (Thames Festival Trust, 2021). Tate & Lyle cemented itself as a fixture of these residents’ lives by providing community-geared resources in the form of community centres, cultural institutes and parties (Thames Festival Trust, 2021). Thus, an important bond between industry and community on our site persisted for decades. However, as the twentieth century came to a close, the role that Tate & Lyle played in nurturing the residents of the surrounding area began to recede when United Molasses, a multinational refinery company, purchased Tate & Lyle in 1965 (Tate & Lyle, n.d.).
A highly-controversial project coincided with the dwindling role of Tate & Lyle in providing for the local residents: the construction of the London City Airport. In 1987, the London City Airport opened to fiery criticism (HACAN East, n.d.). Anti-airport activists decried the construction of the airport for its proximity to London’s disadvantaged neighbourhood. However, the government and airport alike promised that the development would only service select routes flown by smaller, quieter planes; the first of many broken promises (HACAN East, 2012). By 1998, the London City Airport received approval from the government to expand the number of passenger planes allowed, and in 2002, a jet centre opened to cater to high-end business travellers (HACAN East, 2016). Ultimately, the evolution of the London City Airport required breaking its cardinal promise that it would actively try to minimise its burden on the existing residents. With even more expansion plans announced, the London City Airport appears to be on a growing trajectory which disregards the ongoing pandemic or the increasing push for less carbon-intensive travel.
As an airport, London City primarily services non-domestic routes from London to mainland Europe and Ireland. Described as a ‘rush-hour airport’, LCY caters to a business clientele who fly in and out of London within the same day for work purposes (HACAN East, n.d.). As such, the airport experiences a unique temporality where most flights occur between 07:15 to 10:00 and 16:30 to 20:30 with a lull in afternoon activity (HACAN East, n.d.). This unique pattern creates consistent periods of heightened noise disturbance for those who work and live in the area immediately surrounding the airport. Although the airport’s clientele provides an opportunity for local businesses, with one restaurateur claiming that nearly half of their customers come from the airport, a local resident we interviewed stated that proximity to the airport caused them difficulty sleeping during its peak hours.
Figure 2.1: Spatial mappings identifying different land uses around the site.
Figure 2.2A: Site map identifying critical businesses and spaces which define the area surrounding LCY and the Newham borough more generally.
Figure 2.2B: Site images (Authors, 2022).
Challenges the Site Faces
The presence of the London City Airport engenders several problems felt within Newham but most specifically within our site. Beginning with the most macro concerns and working down, this section will examine the ramifications of London City Airport within environmental, social and economic contexts.
At the city scale, London City Airport contributes to the greater issue of aviation-related air pollution which London faces. As a global financial and touristic hub, London requires a robust aviation industry to connect it with the world at large. Two of the five proximal airports to the city directly impact the city’s air pollution levels as a result of their flight paths. Heathrow and London City Airport require flight paths which cross directly above London and leave large amounts of noxious gases, like NO2 and CO2, in their wake. In the case of our site, air pollution levels are further exacerbated by the increased taxi traffic in the area that the airport’s presence drives. As a result, 1 in 7 Newham Residents is exposed to levels of NO2 above the UK legal limit, which provides a similar effect to smoking 159 cigarettes per year (Newham Council, 2021). Poor air quality in the neighbourhood causes 96 deaths annually (Newham Council, 2021). Interestingly, in 2011, Newham residents produced CO2 levels below the London average, meaning that they are subjected to worse air quality despite a disproportionately lower contribution to its creation (LG Inform., 2021).
Figure 2.3: One in seven people are exposed to NO2.
Figure 2.4 (TOP): Map of London passport holders, with dark blue representing a high percentage of non-passport holders, and white representing a low percentage.
Figure 2.5(BOTTOM): Map of Newham passport holders, with dark blue representing a high percentage of non-passport holders, and beige representing a low percentage.
As aforementioned, the London City Airport is located within London’s poorest borough. Alone, this fact cannot substantiate claims that the LCY is not used by the local community, however, statistics regarding the percentage of passport holders could. Generally, as one moves from west to east across London, the percentage of residents who do not hold a passport increase (Figure 2.4). Since LCY most commonly services routes that require a passport to fly, this means that those most impacted by proximity to the airport are less likely to actually be using it. This trend continues even within the borough itself. Figure 2.5 reveals that areas within Newham that are closer to the airport, like the Royal Docks and Canning Town, feature higher percentages of people who do not hold a passport when compared to areas within the borough farther from the airport. Since the airport directly disadvantages those closest while presumably providing very little benefit based on passport figures, the London City Airport represents an extractive industry in the area.
Finally, the location of the airport severs the community which grew from the presence of Tate & Lyle from the rest of Newham. As Figure 2.6 shows, the airport creates a barrier which effectively blocks this neighbourhood from convenient access to the more developed region just north of the old Royal Docks. At a community level, this spatial segregation subversively isolates this neighbourhood from the borough at large. The existence of the airport between this neighbourhood and the high streets of the borough diminishes foot traffic.
Figure 2.6: Conceptual section of spatial segregation .
London City Airport employed approximately 2,200 people until 2020, when this number dropped to 1,636. LCY was required to report the geographic makeup of employees until 2016 and from this past data and it is clear that only about 30% of employees came from Newham in any given year. About 60% came from what LCY calls the “local area”, which are 13 east London boroughs. LCY’s attempt to increase the employment of Newham residents is called “Take Off Into Work”. Efforts include local recruitment and outreach at workshops and events. In 2020, out of 60 vacancies, 13 Newham residents were hired and 4 were still in employment as of this June. This highlights that current efforts are minimally effective and performative.
Figure 2.7: LCY Take off into work scheme.
Figure 2.8: Onsite employees at LCY.
Figure 2.9: Recent employee distribution at LCY.
Within the site, noise pollution presents a constant nuisance. The unique temporality of the airport’s arrivals and departures means that the noisiest times of day are in the early morning and night, which one local resident cited as a barrier to restful sleep. The presence of the noise is difficult to escape, conversations become practically inaudible as planes ascend overhead. Figure 2.10 illustrates the true extent of the noise pollution in the area with an NHS Surgery Centre, primary school and the University of East London all falling well within the affected bounds. Even when the airport itself is out of sight, cognizance of its presence is practically inescapable.
Figure 2.10: Decibel map representing levels of noise pollution around London city airport.
London City Airport has a Community Fund, dedicated to distributing some airport funds to community needs. This fund is available to the “local area”, again 13 east London boroughs. In 2020, out of £85,000, only 29% (£25,000) was allocated to Newham. This fund is application-based, with 30 in-depth questions and 2 required references. It could be possible that the application process deters more people from accessing the fund.
Figure 2.11 (TOP): Community fund allocation in London vs. Newham.
Figure 2.12 (BOTTOM): Community fund allocation Categories.
A Failure to Deliver Urban Ecological Justice
Ultimately, the current relationship between the airport and the neighbouring community exemplifies an uneven, negative relationship. As it currently stands, the London City Airport extracts airspace, land, and resources from the local community while returning a poor-quality environment isolated from the rest of the borough. If urban ecological justice espouses the protection of communities most affected by polluting industries, then the voices of these residents need to be prioritised. With profit motivating the owner’s of the airport, there is little incentive for them to care about the worsening situation they are directly responsible for.
In a situation where urban ecological justice properly exists, a foreign-owned airport situated directly within a pre-existing residential community should not be the sole arbiter in determining future developments. The decades of broken promises by the London City Airport only further substantiate this claim. Evidence proves that proximity to the airport propagates tangible and life-altering consequences that future developments must address. As such, this report will suggest an ambitious intervention which seeks to create a system that checks the power of the airport and initiates a series of projects grounded in a desire to nurture a socially-just and restorative ecosystem.
The role of an airport is clear: it functions as a node that connects cities and regions domestically and abroad to facilitate the movement of people, capital and goods which have skyrocketed in importance in the globalised world. As such, it is unlikely that the London City Airport will disappear any time soon. However, what does the airport in the age of the climate emergency look like? Or rather, what could it look like?
Our intervention seeks to re-imagine the London City Airport for the modern age. The intervention does not exist solely as a physical recommendation for modernization but offers a comprehensive overhaul of the operations of the London City Airport in line with the needs of the community in the face of growing regulation over the industry by the United Kingdom government. Thus, we are proposing a regulatory body created through intervention at the national level which will better guide the London City Airport’s development towards a just and restorative path. This section will first introduce this body before enumerating several projects they could, and should, undertake given our robust research on the current problems which the site faces.
Figure 2.13: Conceptual visualization of LCY money flows before proposed interventions and after, in which money is distributed throughout Newham.
Introducing the NEAA
Realising any long-term vision for urban ecological justice will require developing and implementing the necessary governing structures to effectively convert the normative visions of distribution, recognition, participation and capabilities into concrete policies. The first step of our intervention involves creating a governing body based in Newham which will be responsible for proposing, developing and implementing a wide array of responsive interventions to reconcile the relationship between the London City Airport and its surrounding area.
The purpose of the “Newham Ecological Aviation Authority” will be to work towards restoring ecological justice and enhancing the quality of the urban environment surrounding the London City airport. The Authority’s functionality will be centred around four core mandates:
1. Mitigating the environmental impact of existing airport infrastructure on its proximal neighbours 2. Restoring community agency and strengthening relationships between local actors and local residents 3. Repairing the spatial disconnect that has resulted from the airport’s physicality 4. Harnessing local talent and enabling economic opportunity for emerging innovators and entrepreneurs
Fitting the NEAA Within Existing Regulations/What Distinguishes the NEAA from Other Groups?
The NEAA will be established by the GLA under a new federal mandate that extends upon the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to emphasise more sustainable and responsible aviation practises across London’s airports. The current Act outlines the general duty of the Mayor of London to ‘develop and apply policies which encourage safe, efficient and integrated economic transport facilities and services to, from and within London (Transport For London, n.d.). Expanding the current Act by creating a new mandate that speaks specifically to encouraging sustainable aviation and community practises will guide London’s airport authorities to engage in more ecologically responsible practises, bringing them closer to achieving the goals of the Jet Zero plan.
The NEAA will be implemented to exert discretionary top-down authority over the London City Airport to ensure that the goals of the new mandate are satisfied. The authority will assume control from the current consortium owners, who will be placed into a financial and advisory role. The NEAA will integrate alongside the current Newham Council to present a collaborative force that combines the GLA’s broader sustainable aviation goals with the local priorities of the Newham Council. Moreover, the community will be engaged through regular town hall meetings.
Figure 2.14: Organigram identifying key actors around LCY, demonstrating the deeply interconnected relationship that each important stakeholder has in relation to other bodies and actors in the area. The organigram also illustrates the impact that the NEAA will have, as an autonomous body mandated by government legislature to support and respond to the needs of the identified key actors.
Financial Mechanisms of NEAA
The NEAA will raise revenue from four sources: Air Passenger Duty (APD), GLA funds, the airport consortium owners and further pollution taxation.
The APD applies to the passengers boarding from a UK airport, and the amount is based on the grade of seats and the distance to the destination. Our calculation, based on the type of aeroplanes taking off from the airport, the number of passengers and their destination, revealed that London City Airport generated £76 million from 5.1 million passengers in 2019. The duty has, however, been regarded as a perfect tax by politicians since it is inevitable and the majority of passengers who pay it are foreign populations having no suffrage in the UK (Calder, 2021). Despite its lucrative nature, the money feeds directly into the national treasury so very little revenue is directed to the local community (Seely, 2021). The NEAA will, therefore, reinvest the APD collected by London City Airport users into the community’s revitalization.
The GLA provides various funds which can sustain the projects initiated by the authority; examples include the Grow Back Greener Fund, Regeneration Funding, London Community Energy Fund and the UK Community Renewal Fund. The first fund was, in fact, awarded to three projects in Newham in 2021 and contributed to the creation of a community garden and play space for residents and local children (Greater London Authority, 2022).
The NEAA also will take a loan from the airport consortiums constituting Canadian enterprises. Although one might question whether they will be cooperative with NEAA, the partnership will benefit not only the authority but also the airport owners as they can demonstrate their will to contribute to the local area whilst benefiting from a reduction in the proportion of overall operational costs they are required to cover, given that the NEAA will bring in new sources of funding for the airport.
Lastly, as regulations over the aviation industry become more commonplace in the United Kingdom, we can expect that further taxes will be levied against the industry. While the current Air Passenger Duty is primarily a tax paid by the individuals flying, taxation targeted at the airlines and airports themselves could, and should, emerge. The lucrative nature of these taxes presents an incredible opportunity to generate further funding for projects to carry out sustainable and socially restorative projects whose impacts reverberate beyond the aviation industry.
The capital will be distributed for all the future interventions concerning urban ecological justice in the neighbourhood through participatory budgeting and community funds. By providing a place where local communities can directly be involved in deciding how to spend a part of the budget and enabling the local businesspeople or burgeoning entrepreneurs to apply for funding to restimulate the local economy, the NEAA will enhance the agency of people living in the neighbouring area and realise the equal and effective distribution of the capital.
Figure 2.15: Diagram mapping financial flow of capital into and out of the NEAA.
1. Airport Green Upgrading
The location and size of LCY as an inner-city, short-haul travel hub presents an opportunity for the airport to undertake a comprehensive green upgrading project that will see it become a pioneer for the green aviation transition. The pathway to net-zero will require making strategic investments today for the benefit of future generations, and airports have an opportunity to be at the forefront of sustainable design by adopting low emission development strategies to optimise energy and resource-use.
The LCY airport green upgrading intervention will take a phased approach to reduce the carbon footprint of the airport, which will significantly mitigate the airport’s ecological impact on the surrounding area while enabling operations to be maintained.
Firstly, the airport will design and implement a comprehensive new waste and water management system, which will collect, identify and treat waste and water to enable them to be recycled back into the airport or disposed of responsibly. The Gatwick waste management system, the first of its kind to process highly contaminated airline waste into energy onsite, will serve as a guideline for LCY’s new system (Gatwick Airport Press Office, 2017).
Secondly, the airport will transition to green energy sources within the airport terminal to offset carbon emissions. Strategies will include installing rooftop solar panels to harness renewable energy, using radiant ceilings for heating and cooling within the airport’s mechanical systems, and applying electrochromic glazing to airport windows to provide high-quality daylight to passengers while eliminating harmful glare (ARUP, n.d.). The rooftop panels will generate clean energy specifically aimed at powering airport operations.
Thirdly, LCY will work to reduce vehicle impacts in and around the airport by modernising its ground equipment and fleet vehicles, and replacing diesel and petrol vehicles with electric vehicles where possible, as has been achieved at airports such as Flughafen Stuttgart (Munzer, 2016). The LCY will also work with local road and transit authorities to develop road and public transport systems, which encourage cleaner, greener methods of transport to and from airports.
Figure 2.16: Example of a potential new waste and water management system. The system is based off a model recently developed by Gatwick airport, but has been adjusted to incorporate grey water waste as part of the new recycled energy system.
2. Green Energy Incubator
Despite only a few metres of water physically separating the University of East London (UEL) from the London City Airport, there is no apparent relationship between these two actors. As a part of the formation of the NEAA, there should be a priority on initiatives aimed at building a fortified relationship between these two groups. One such project will be the creation of a Green Energy Incubator for UEL students to participate in.
An incubator will allow students to form teams to propose projects in the green energy field and compete for securing funding to further develop their research. Given the airport's existing network of connections to key players in the aviation field, winning students will further benefit from the ability to engage with working professionals during the research period.
This initiative will balance benefits between both parties. The university students will be able to critically engage with topics related to green energy and further the scholarship in the field whilst being in contact with professionals working in the industry. Meanwhile, the airport will be able to source new ideas for modernising their operations to adhere to carbon-neutral regulation from the federal government while potentially being able to employ eager graduates from a talent pool that has already worked in close contact with their site. Overall, this initiative seeks to build a relationship between LCY and UEL, which stimulates research driven by students on the topic of green energy whilst simultaneously facilitating the London City Airport’s transition to becoming an exemplar for green airports.
Figure 2.17: The green energy incubator will facilitate research by UEL students that will have reverberating impacts beyond the future developments of the airport and the site.
3. Green Aviation Trade School
The collaboration between the University of East London and the airport will also run a school program focusing on sustainable innovation in the aviation industry. In this Green Aviation Trade School, students will learn various skills necessary for the interventions that restore the quality of the urban environment in the neighbouring site, such as insulation retrofitting, solar panel installation and green aviation practices.
The school will provide skills programs, environmental awareness workshops and on-site training, and issue completion certificates and various certifications. Courses will be taught on the UEL campus, so that accessibility is equal and easy. Additionally, the nursery will be open for use so that any students do not feel added barriers to participation. Moreover, their travel costs accessing the school will be subsidised by NEAA, and all the modules will be accessible both in-person and online at various times of the day.
The program will not be restricted to UEL students. The local residents, and perhaps Londoners at large, who are keen on the future of the aviation industry can engage with the material and a real-life case study of the London City Airport and NEAA initiatives through the school. Local residents will be able to gain skills necessary for the other proposed interventions, increasing local employment and participation within this project.
Figure 2.18: Diagram showing the purpose, uses and target group for the green trade school.
4. LCY Job Centre
London City Airport’s employment efforts have focused very little on Newham residents. To date, their efforts have focused mostly on employing residents from the ‘local area’, which is a group of 13 East London Boroughs. Employment must be centred more on the immediate area, as Newham residents are more negatively impacted by the airport.
In an effort to bridge the employment gap created by the airport, we propose the creation of the LCY Job Centre. This centre will focus on employability skills, such as resume building and interview skills. Additionally, recruiters from LCY will utilise the job centre as a key resource when filling roles. This will help increase Newham residents’ employment over the ‘local area’. All other proposed interventions will create jobs that will come through the job centre, so that the majority of employees on each intervention will be Newham residents. The LCY job centre will capitalise on the local knowledge and skills that are already present, providing resources to empower residents through employment.
The Job Centre will be located within the London City Airport location, as the two other job centres in Newham are not easily accessible to this area. This location is easily accessed by the DLR so that residents can visit and take advantage of its services. Additionally, we believe a job centre within the airport will help to shift public sentiments towards its presence, as it will begin to offer community resources rather than continuously consuming them.
Figure 2.19 (TOP): Knowledge and skill flow through LCY job centre.
Figure 2.20 (BOTTOM): Location of new job centre (pink) in relation to existing centres (blue).
Figure 2.21: Location of new job centre within LCY terminal that can be directly accessed from the outside.
Figure 2.22: Geographic employment focus and airport trust of Tate & Lyle, LCY currently and LCY after proposed interventions.
5. Noise Control and Insulation
As Figure 2.10 highlighted, noise pollution from London City Airport is a present disruption in Newham. Constant exposure to high levels of noise pollution can cause negative impacts on mental health and daily activities (Dzhambov, A.M. et al., 2018). We believe that all residents in the Newham community deserve the right to comfort inside of their homes and community. To achieve this, we propose the London City Airport Insulation Scheme, in which London City Airport works as a community partner to insulate residences so that they are protected from noise pollution.
This program would be rolled out in phases, beginning with homes closest to the airport - which are most impacted by air and noise pollution (See Figures 2.23 and 2.24). The efforts will expand to a larger radius over the course of 5 years, until all homes impacted by the noise of LCY flights are protected.
The noise insulation scheme will not only reduce noise pollution, but will also lower the amount of heating that escapes from homes and buildings, diminishing energy needs. With our proposed microgrid (explained in the following section) covering energy costs for the neighbourhood, reducing energy usage through insulation will consolidate consumption from the microgrid, enabling more businesses and homes to be powered, thus contributing towards the achievement of the Jet Zero goals.
Additionally, the scheme will serve as an opportunity for LCY to increase the employment of Newham residents. Through the trade school, Newham residents and UEL students will be able to learn hard skills towards insulation retrofitting.
It is important to note that LCY has already taken some noise pollution action, however, our proposal would be more ambitious, as the goal will be to insulate every home within the noise pollution radius. Under the current initiative, residents themselves are responsible for applying to the scheme to have their homes insulated. Our proposal will bring the scheme to the residents so that no individual will have to take on the extra burden of researching and reaching out to the airport.
Figure 2.23: Phases of airport insulation scheme based on proximity to noise.
Figure 2.24: Potential methods for noise insulation, including vegetation and construction.
6. Solar Panel Microgrid
In 2019, the airport proposed a plan to install 900 sqm of solar panels, which would create 140,000 kWh of electricity - enough to cover 6% of terminal operations or the energy use of 37 London homes (London City Airport, 2021).
Instead of installing a small number of panels, we suggest the transformation of a portion of the airport parking lot into a solar panel microgrid. Approximately one-third of the parking lot will be converted into a multi-story parking garage so that there will still be parking options for employees and some travellers. The middle of the parking lot is currently housed by facilities for airport operations, and this will remain in our plan as well. The remaining parking lot space will become an approximately 17,372 square metre microgrid. This grid will produce about 2.5 MWh, which would be enough energy to power approximately 1,200 Newham homes. These approximations were calculated using the average estimated MWh per acre (McCloy & MS, 2021).
It is estimated that energy costs are the second largest financial pressures that UK schools face, after staff wages (ISBL, n.d.). Our proposed action will not only be a step-in alignment with Jet Zero, but also a source of financial relief on homes and schools. If schools are no longer required to pay for energy usage, the leftover money can be funnelled into important programs, such as childhood health initiatives. Additionally, pressure will not fall on individuals to pursue panel installation or maintenance and instead will require the airport to take on these responsibilities.
Figure 2.25: Plan showing proposed microgrid location.
Figure 2.26: Microgrid installation strategy and the different users that will benefit from it.
Figure 2.27: This diagram highlights the multi-dimensional impacts of Green Recovery efforts. Money from the Grow-Back Greener Fund, London Community Energy Fund, and Air Passenger Duty will come into the NEAA and Green Incubator for the Solar Microgrid and Insulation Scheme. The Trade School and Job Centre will provide necessary skills and employment opportunities for these projects. These efforts will help to increase green operations within LCY and Newham and provide local growth opportunities. In the same way that the negative impacts of proximity to the airport often compound upon one another, our proposed interventions carried out by the NEAA are highly interconnected. The diagram exemplifies the interconnected relational effects of what we’ve proposed.
TIMELINE AND PHASE OF OPERATION
Figure 2.28: Conceptual timeline graph of intervention implementation dates. The timeline estimates the amount of time each intervention will take. The darker gradients in the job centre timeline indicate points at which employment will be higher. Note: after ~20 yrs., most panels are no longer effective on a large scale, but can be used on rooftops - microgrid panels will be donated to other London communities.
With its proximal location to industry, residences, commercial activities and nodes of higher education, the London City Airport presents an interesting opportunity to re-imagine the airport for the 21st century and beyond. In fact, London City Airport already contains many of the elements of an aerotropolis as defined by Kasarda & Lindsay (2012). An aerotropolis places the airport at the centre of an urban form for the perceived efficiency and order that could be attained by doing so (Kasarda & Lindsay, 2012). While presently, it is a disjointed agglomeration of various pieces, a strategic development plan could reshape the airport’s relationship with its surroundings to form a structure similar to an aerotropolis. Our report does not seek to assert that London City Airport should become an aerotropolis nor that doing so would benefit the local community, but the greater connection between the various actors which surround the existing infrastructure could mitigate the negative consequences of being so proximally located. However, the airport should prioritise atoning for its failure to protect the local community in whatever development path it chooses.
Our intervention offers a way for the London City Airport to rehabilitate its relationship with the local community whilst meeting modernization standards outlined by the national government. While our intervention and its recommendations are highly centred around the research we carried out in the borough, our intervention could be more broadly applicable to other contexts. For example, Toronto and Amsterdam both feature airports located within highly-urban environments. However, additional research should be carried out to ensure that the needs of those communities are satisfied by our recommendations.
Ultimately, the creation of the Newham Ecological Aviation Authority and the hypothesised projects we’ve proposed will nurture a more sociologically just and environmentally sustainable ecosystem. The pursuit of urban ecological justice is a lengthy process but through a framework which prioritises the needs of marginalised communities and non-human ecosystems, we can begin to imagine new urban environments which champion fairness.
Figure 2.29: Spatial representation of the proposed interventions, demonstrating the geographic location and impact of each intervention in the overall context of the site.
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