The 1983 Public Inquiry
- conclusions & recommendations
Extract from Report of 1983 public inquiry into the proposal to build the Airport
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BETWEEN June and October 1983 there was a public inquiry into Mowlem's application for outline planning permission to develop their Docklands "STOLport". This was held, not in the local Town Hall, but in a derelict building in the Albert Basin which had to be specially repaired for the purpose. It was widely believed by those attending that this was a deliberate move on the part of the LDDC not only to have the inquiry on their own territory, to also demonstrate very clearly the isolation and dereliction of the area and the need for new investment in regeneration.
The report of the inquiry was issued by the Secretary of State in August the following year. Here is an extract showing the Inspector's Conclusions and Recommendations. The full report and the Secretary of State's decision letter can be seen on out Archive Page
TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING ACT 1971
John Mowlem and Company PLC
relating to a
THE ROYAL DOCKS, LONDON
Inspector: M I Montague- Smith BArch MCD RIBA MRTPI
Assessor: Air Vice Marshal B P Young CB CBE
Dates of Inquiry: 8 June - 5 August and 7 September - 28 October 1983
FileNumbers: GLP/5026/220/1 & GLP/5026/21/63/1
SECTION 23: Conclusions and Recommendations
Bearing in mind the above facts I have reached the following conclusions:
23.1. The merits of this application were contested at the inquiry on 2 levels. Underlying the more salient planning issues such as environmental impact, employment and safety, were fundamental differences in approach to the future of the docklands areas. Insofar as these differences give some insight into the stance taken by each of' the parties, they provide a background to the arguments put forward both for and against the proposal.
23.2. There are some areas of common ground. Most people agree that the fabric of the area has deteriorated over the years, and this, combined with high unemployment has led to a lowering of the morale among local people. The general lack of confidence in the area has resulted in a low level of private and public investment over the years, though the latter has recently taken a turn for the better in the Beckton area. Everyone seems to agree that there is a need to regenerate the economic base and the physical environment, and that access to and within the Royal Docks area needs to be improved. There is also general agreement that any solution must take into account the interests of the local residents. There is, however, a wide difference of opinion as to how the problems should be tackled and solved.
23.3. On the one hand the proponents of the scheme consider that dock uses and cargo handling in the Royal Docks are dead and gone for ever. The disused dock facilities are regarded as something of a liability. 'Demand-lead planning' is favoured as the means of regenerating the area, with the emphasis on attracting outside private investment bringing in new, exciting, imaginative, large-scale, private enterprise projects. The introduction of new technology and the encouragement of innovation are expected to create new types of job opportunities and to widen job choice and work skills. The emphasis is on rapid results.
23.4. On the other hand, many objectors firmly believe that the Royal Docks are capable of revitalisation, possibly as part of a multi-mode transport interchange. The docks facilities are an asset which should be exploited and not left to rot. The area needs to be regenerated through 'planned' growth in the context of statutory local plans, with the emphasis on community centred, organic growth based on local needs. There would need to be a substantial element of public investment with a return to traditional types of industry using the traditional skills of the existing unemployed labour force. Part and parcel of this would be the consolidation, encouragement and expansion of existing small business firms in the area. A step by step progress is advocated.
23.5. In practice, there is some overlap between the two approaches. The proponents and supporters of the project, for example, are not opposed to the encouragement of existing local businesses where circumstances permit, and the objectors accept the need for private investment in the area. Nevertheless, while there is much to be said for the planned approached advocated by the objectors, in my view it is unrealistic to ignore the fact that the responsibility for regenerating the docklands has been placed in the hands of the LDDC. The realities of the present situation are that the docks are closed, the PLA has no intention of reviving them, the LDDC are in a position to control the development in t he Royal Docks, and there is an urgent need to revitalise the area with the least possible delay.
Policies and Plans
23.6 There is no reference to STOLports in the Governments's 'Airports Policy' White Paper of 1978, and the GLC argue that such a proposal should not be permitted in the absence of a regional policy framework on STOL provision. There is also very little up-to-date planning policy on the application site. The Greater London Development Plan contains some general policies which provide useful background help. The most directly relevant of these is paragraph 5.3.22 which cautiously welcomes the development of STOLport facilities in London provided that they are environmentally acceptable. The application proposal does not appear to directly conflict with any of the GLDP provisions.
23.7. The London Docklands Strategic Plan which is more specifically related to the docklands situation, lays emphasis on the planned approach and community centred philosophy adopted by the Borough Council and the GLC. However, events in the Royal Docks have moved on beyond the point envisaged in the LDSP, and the plan is out-of-date in some respects. Also, though it is referred to in the Greater London Development Plan, the LDSP is a non-statutory plan which has never been tested at a public inquiry.
23.8. The LDSP was intended to achieve its objectives through statutory local plans prepared by the borough councils. However, to date no local plan has been prepared for the Royal Docks area, though Newham Borough Council have started work on one. Objectors argue that the STOLport proposal would effectively prevent the LDSP's aims being realised, and because of its size, importance and strategic position, the proposed development would close down many of the options for a local plan particularly those relating to docks' uses, residential and community provision. They want a decision on this application shelved until it can be seen in the context of a local plan.
23.9. I agree with those who argue that the STOLport inquiry cannot be regarded as a -substitute for a local plan inquiry. However, I question the desirability of holding up this application until a local plan is far enough advanced to provide firm guidance. It may take quite some time to resolve the different viewpoints of the relevant local authorities and select a preferred option. To bring the impetus for regeneration to a halt, possibly for several years, while a long local plan process is carried forward to another public inquiry, would give rise to all the demoralising effects which the GLC have forecast in the event of the STOLport project failing commercially.
23.10. The 'People's Plan', which was presented at the Inquiry, provides an interesting example of the useful contribution to local planning which members of a community can make. However, in my view, it cannot be regarded as a local plan itself in the usual planning sense. It lacks a systematic and comprehensive report of survey to provide a data base for assessing the needs of the community, it provides no alternative choices or options, it provides no information on costs and it is not related to resources. In consequence, it is difficult to judge how practical its proposals are. The 'People's Plan' clearly represents the aspirations of at least a section of the community, but, in the absence of a structured public participation exercise, the degree to which it represents the wishes of the community as a whole is not clear.
23.11. The main objections raised at the inquiry related to the impact of the STOLport proposals in preventing or inhibiting other more beneficial uses, introducing dangers, noise, disturbance, pollution and additional traffic, and being economically unviable. These are dealt with in turn below.
23.12. I indicated to objectors that I was not prepared to extend the scope of the inquiry to include an assessment of alternative options for the area as a whole - these issues being better dealt with at a local plan inquiry. However, I did not seek to restrict debate on alternative proposals put forward by objectors so far as they affected my consideration of the application site and its immediate vicinity.
23.13. The STOLport proposal would involve sacrificing some of the dockyard facilities, such as the 3 dry docks within the application site. There is some difference of opinion as to whether these dock facilities should be regarded as assets or liabilities, but, in my view, there is not enough hard evidence of a need to mothball them until a use for their services materialises. If there was a strong probability of large-scale shipping returning to the docks, I might well take a different view, but the present signs are not hopeful.
23.14. There was general agreement at the inquiry that the STOLport operations would not be compatible with a revival of large-scale shipping activity within the docks. However, in spite of the GLC's consultants findings, I am not convinced that the re-introduction of cargo handling to the Royals would be commercially viable or feasible, bearing in mind the physical characteristics and location of the docks. Also, in view of the substantial spare container handling capacity in the London region, such a move would be likely to have a severe impact on the viability of other upstream cargo facilities, such as the Victoria Deep Water Terminal. The GLC are, of course, looking at the whole question in the wider context of an overall transport strategy where other values come into the equation.
23.15. The concept of an integrated transport inter-change within the Royal Docks has strategic implications beyond the scope of my inquiry. Even if it was proper for me to do so, I would not have sufficient information to make a recommendation one way or the other. I can only refer to the arguments as presented by the parties which are reported in some detail elsewhere in this report.
23.16. Some objectors feel that the application site could be used for other employment uses, more beneficial than an airport. There are a number of substantial buildings on the site which seem to be in a reasonable condition and capable of being re-used for office or industrial purposes. None of them have any particular architectural merit, in my opinion, though the Port of London Authority building has some interesting features. These buildings may or may not be suitable in size, layout and location for an alternative use, but in view of the availability of new industrial floorspace, and land on which purpose-built premises can be built, it is by no means certain that there would be a demand for these existing buildings except as a means of cheap accommodation.
23.17. Furthermore, the physical isolation of the application site, its long narrow shape and its limited vehicular access would place it at a disadvantage in comparison with other available industrial floorspace in the vicinity. It seems over-optimistic to expect a site with these characteristics to yield job densities of over 100 to the hectare. On the other hand, the Centre Road Wharf appears to constitute a functionally efficient site for a STOLport runway, and the applicants may well be right that this is the best, if not the only suitable site for this purpose close to Central London.
23.18. Industrial or commercial development on adjoining land would not be unduly inhibited by the proposed STOLport operations. New dockside development would be limited to about 100 ft in height at the water's edge, rising beyond. The Public Safety Zones at the ends of the runway would fall mainly within-the site or adjoining water areas. Very little development land would be affected, though the overlapping runway configuration would extend the outer part of the western Public Safety Zone beyond Connaught Road to include the disused Shed 4, limiting its use to storage.
23.19. I doubt whether Shed 4 is a practical building for conversion into a community recreation centre as some objectors suggest. It is a vast structure which would cost a great deal of money to convert and insulate, apart from the cost of lighting and heating it. The relatively low clear internal height makes it suitable for a limited range of sports at a local level and the benefit achieved hardly seems to justify the amount of public money which would need to be spent.
23.20. The Borough Council's attractive concept of constructing 'land bridges' by partial dock filling to create land for housing and a chain of open spaces from Beckton to the river, would be severely restricted if not wholly stifled by the proposed STOLport. The central Connaught Road 'land bridge', the most important link between the communities to north and south, would be virtually sterilised for any beneficial community use because of aircraft noise and safety restrictions. On the other hand, no detailed costings have been prepared so far and it is by no means certain to me that the land bridge concept would survive financial scrutiny. Nor has the extent of local support or opposition for the concept been tested. There are, in fact, a number of hurdles yet to be cleared before a judgement can be reached on how realistic this imaginative idea is.
23.21. Although the Borough Council's proposals for residential and community development would be affected to some extent by the STOLport proposal, much of the 81 acres of land required to meet housing and open space needs could still be developed even with the airport in operation. The infilling of the western end of the Royal Victoria Dock could be carried out and the LDDC have said that they are prepared to discuss making available some of the residential land in Beckton for council housing.
23.22. The STOLport proposal would undoubtedly consolidate the existing east-west barrier which the docks have always constituted, and this would not make any easier the task cf integrating the communities on either side. However, much of the isolation experienced by the people of North Woolwich, Silvertown and West Silvertown is due to poor communications with other local communities and beyond.
23.23. The airport would itself create an additional link with 'the outside world' and its presence would not prevent a better pedestrian and vehicular corridor being formed along the Connaught Road line. An extension of the Light Rapid Transit System to Silvertown would improve travel links greatly, and even modest improvements in the local bus service would reduce the sense of being cut off from the rest of London. In all these respects, the additional traffic generated by the STOLport and any associated or secondary activities, could only help to encourage improvements in transport services.
23.24. Objectors' worries about possible air traffic control problems are not shared by tee National Air Traffic Services who feel that, with careful phasing, the STOL operation could be handled without undue difficulty. The applicants' intention to provide radar coverage, the proposals to re-organise the London Terminal Control Zone, and the use of the most up-to-date navigational and landing aids, would all contribute to the integration of the STOL operation into the existing system.
23.25. Local people are understandably anxious about the presence of hazardous industrial substances in the area. These, together with many high rise flats, electricity pylons and other existing and proposed tall structures, may seem to present a significant potential risk when associated with flying aircraft. However, these factors have been taken into account by the authorities responsible for matters of safety. Although there must be some risks involved in siting an airport in an urban area, the margins of safety which are built into the airport licencing requirements together with the high performance characteristics of the aircraft, should help to ensure that the dangers are more apparent than real.
23.26. Similarly, while the possibility of an aircraft being brought down by a bird strike cannot be ruled out, the use of turbo propeller driven aircraft make this most unlikely. Weather data indicates that this site should provide acceptable climatic conditions for a high proportion of the time. Local fog conditions can be unpredictable, but the Microwave Landing System has a built-in fog warning for approaching aircraft. The Civil Aviation Authority's word of caution about possible wind turbulence problems should be noted, and it would be advisable for a more detailed study of possible wind effects to be carried out before the airport operations begin.
23.27. In the event of an aircraft crash from any cause, the large areas of water on either side and at both ends of the runway would provide some safeguard for people living and working in the area. In the main, most of the housing and industrial development is set back to the sides of the line of approach and take-off, and the highly accurate Microwave Landing System should reduce the chances of any scheduled aircraft straying significantly off course.
23.28. There are some indications that television and radio reception may be affected, but the evidence is not very conclusive. The only direct evidence related to a situation directly under the flight path and near the end of the runway at Plymouth Airport. It is unlikely that adjoining residential areas would be subjected to unacceptable levels of pollution from aircraft fuel emissions.
23.29. It is implicit in the NNI formula that some noise annoyance will be caused to the more noise-sensitive members of the local community. Nevertheless, the noise and number index remains the accepted method of assessing air noise nuisance around airports in the United Kingdom and I can see no reason why that index should not be used in this case. I am in no doubt that 100 ATMs per week day by DASH-7 aircraft would not result in a serious air noise impact on the local community as a whole.
23.30. Indeed, with only one school and some 143 residential properties (in the worst case) exposed to 35 NNI or more, and none at all at 40 NNI or more, the overall impact would clearly be small by long established standards. However, there would almost certainly be some people who would be disturbed by the noise. These would involve a proportion of local residents living in the lower NNI bands who are particularly sensitive to even moderately low levels of aircraft noise, and there would be the relatively few people in the Camel Road/Drew Road area who-would be living close to the airport boundary and within the 35 NNI band.
23.31. I am satisfied that the remedial measures to be provided by the applicants in the form of noise barriers and/or sound insulation, would adequately protect the Drew Road School and the worst affected residential properties. The 35 NNI contour happens to broadly coincide with the area within which properties would need to be insulated against the rather greater impact of ground noise. This means that, in air noise terms, there would be protection down to the threshold of community annoyance as defined in the Index, and the situation would be a good deal better than at many established airports in the UK today.
23.32. Nevertheless, people living closest to the airport would be exposed to a good deal of noise in their gardens and on the street, as would the children in the Drew Road School playground. Moreover, since the houses in Camel Road are set at a lower level than the application site, the erection of high boundary walls and acoustic screens could make the rear gardens even less attractive places to relax in.
23.33. On the other hand, it should be remembered that the present inactive state of the docks and the disused condition of the application site have created an unusually quiet noise climate in the surrounding area. This should particularly be borne in mind when comparing the present ambient noise level with the noise levels predicted for the STOLport. Almost any alternative development of the application site for employment uses would be likely to raise the existing noise level, and some forms of development could be far more obtrusive and overbearing than the proposed airport buildings are likely to be.
23.34. It is possible that some noise nuisance could be caused to local residents during the demolition and construction phase, but this would be for a temporary period and I believe that it would be acceptable. I am satisfied that the impact of noise generated by a STOLport related traffic on the local roads would not be excessive.
23.35. Although the land to the south of the Albert Dock Basin would probably be made less attractive for housing development on account of noise disturbance, it could still be profitably used for industry, warehousing or other employment uses. In my view, Thamesmead would not suffer any serious effects from aircraft noise. Should the East London River Crossing be constructed as a suspension bridge, its elevated southern approach road would cross the western part of Thamesmead.
23.36. When considering the possibility of aircraft operations (and therefore noise) intensifying over the years, it is disturbing to note the gradual escalation in the applicants' predictions of flying activity at the STOLport. Their early publicity mentioned 50 to 60 DASH-7 movements per day, and this increased to 100 ATMs per day in Mr Butler's proof of evidence - further increased under cross-examination to 120 ATMs in a peak day in 'the worst case'. By the time the Section 52 agreement was signed the figure incorporated in the agreement was 130 ATMs per day. Similarly, week-end activity, which was originally expected to be about 30 ATMs per day, had risen to 130 on Saturdays and 100 on Sundays by the time the agreement was signed.
23.37. The airport as proposed could handle up to 12 movements per hour, so there is clearly scope to reach and possibly exceed these levels of activity in a 16-hour day. Although it is unlikely that the numbers would approach anywhere near the 200 ATMs per day which objectors suggest is the theoretical capacity of the runway, the Section 52 agreement limits may come to be regarded as an 'optimum' rather than 'maximum' level of operations. I consider it important to ensure that the number of movements is strictly controlled by the terms of any permission granted.
23.38. Although airport activity could also be intensified by building a parallel taxiway on the north side of the Albert Dock, any such proposal would need a new planning permission and a change in the Section 52 agreement. I do not see this remote possibility as a serious objection to the proposal. The potential also exists to extend the length of the proposed single runway. This, together with the possible demolition of the mill buildings to the west and the abandonment of the East London River Crossing bridge proposal to the west, could make the STOLport capable of use by much larger, noisier jet aircraft with shallow angles of approach and climb. However, this too would require a fresh planning permission which would of course need to be examined closely to establish its justification.
23.39. Indeed, it seems to me that only the use of STOL-type aircraft would be reasonable in this location. The Civil Aviation Authority have advised that their criteria are similar to STOL practices in the United States and Canada as dictated by the ICAO STOLport Manual, and they have not been tailored to fit this site. The standards are therefore fixed irrespective of the obstacle situation in this particular case.
23.40. I nevertheless find some cause for concern in that the airport facilities could be used by STOL-type aircraft capable of meeting the Civil Aviation Authority criteria, but which are noisier than the exceptionally quiet DASH-7 on which the noise calculations have been based. One such is the Twin Otter, and although the trend is towards developing quieter aircraft, there could be others which, while meeting the noise certification requirements now and in the future, could greatly increase the overall noise impact.
23.41. The estimated maximum 2-way traffic generation of 470 vehicles in the morning peak hour should not overburden the existing local road system which served the Royal Docks in their heyday. The anticipated 151 additional vehicles travelling towards Central London in the morning peak hour is bound to add to the existing congestion on the A13. However, this level of additional traffic is not expected to arise until the passenger throughput reaches 1 million, and by that time the planned road improvements in the East End should be coming into use. It should also be borne in mind that the regeneration of the Royal Docks area is bound to cause increases in traffic flows, whatever form that development takes.
23.42. Although the proposed road and public transport improvements are planned to take place whether or not the STOLport is built, the latter could have some influence on the rate at which the improvements are brought into effect. In the meantime, the current level of public transport provision should be capable of accommodating without difficulty the numbers of STOLport passengers likely to travel by this mode.. The planning authorities are satisfied with the proposed on-site parking arrangements and there appears to be adequate space for further provision if necessary in the future.
Financial and Economic Viability
23.43. I have considerable reservations about how much weight should be given to objections concerning the financial and economic viability of the proposed development. A number of objectors attach great importance to the argument that the STOLport could fail because the applicants have not got their sums right, or because the passenger demand will be less than expected, or for a host of other reasons which I have set out in Section 8 of this report.
23.44. There are so many imponderables and variables in the financial forecasts that it is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty whether the airport will be commercially successful. If the STOLport were to take twice as long as predicted to build up to 1 million passengers, the employment generation would be slower but this disadvantage would be balanced to some extent by a more gradual increase in ground and air traffic, allowing the operation to be more easily assimilated into the community and into the LTMA. Even if the STOLport should fail altogether, the site would revert to its present disused state and the situation will be no worse than it is now.
23.45. I disagree altogether with the view expressed that failure of the project would reduce public confidence in the area even further. In my view, nothing is likely to demoralise the local people more than a refusal to grasp a development opportunity because it might not succeed. If the applicants are prepared to invest in the area, it seems faint hearted of the local authorities to pour cold water on their initiative because of the financial risk involved.
23.46. The objectors argue that if the airport gets into financial difficulties the planning authority, could be faced with further applications for permission to expand the operation or introduce helicopters and other types of aircraft in order to prop up the faltering enterprise. This seems far fetched to me. However, there is more to be said for the other argument that a successful STOLport could lead to pressure for expansion. Incremental expansion is especially difficult for planning authorities to resist, since each small step is relatively modest and the situation deteriorates over a number of years.
23.47. The main benefits mentioned in support of the proposed STOLport relate to the service it would provide to businessman and local people, the creation of jobs, the attraction of other businesses to the area and the improvement in the appearance of the application site.
Provision of Service to Air Line Passengers
23.48. The applicants claim that this application represents the introduction of a new concept in inter-city travel, providing a fast, convenient and simple form of transportation between city centres. The Royal Docks are well located for the purpose near to the city business centre, on the east side of London which is lacking in such facilities, and near the Continent of Europe. If this opportunity is lost, it may not he possible to find another suitable centrally located available site.
23.49. Objectors argue that there is no need for this airport. Business travellers are already well served by other existing London airports. It is suggested that the relatively small number of destinations which would be available to STOLport travellers world offer little inducement to tempt passengers away from Heathrow. I disagree. The frequent critical comparisons which were made between the proposed STOLport and Heathrow seem to miss the point that the 2 are really not comparable. The STOLport would offer a specialised service, mainly to businessmen. It would not attempt to rival the wide range of services provided by Heathrow. In both scope and scale, the STOLport would be essentially a different animal, and seen in this limited context, the proposed range of destinations seems both practical and appropriate.
23.50. The difficulties which the airline operator may encounter in obtaining his route licences are a matter of speculation at this stage and do not seem to me to constitute a substantial objection to the proposal. Even if route licences cannot be obtained to the proposed destinations, there may be other continental cities which would offer convenient destinations to business travellers.
23.51. There is little doubt that the STOLport would provide a significant time advantage over other London airports for businessmen working in the City of London. The time saving is likely to increase as transportation improvements are carried out in the East End. The impact of the M25 on passenger choice of airport is more difficult to assess, but easy parking and simple, direct processing arrangements may well influence some passengers who wish to avoid the 'hassle' encountered at larger airports like Heathrow. The 'perceived' advantage of the STOLport over other airports would vary according to a number of factors, some of which are unquantifiable. Nevertheless, strictly in 'time saving' terms , city businessmen and residents on the east side of London are likely to benefit significantly from the proximity of the application site.
23.52. The limited frequency of flights out of the STOLport would be likely to discourage some passengers in the early years while the scheduled service builds up. However, the applicants have taken this into account in making their passenger forecasts, and it is only one of a number of factors likely to influence demand. It is likely that the proposed STOL operation would provide a facility which would be welcomed by many business firms, both in terms of scheduled passenger services and as a means of transporting high value/low bulk freight. There is also a possibility that non-business passengers would benefit from leisure travel during daytime off-peak periods.
23.53. The proposed development would have a limited impact on existing employment in the area. About 20 commercial firms employing about 100 people in all would have to move from the application site and this is bound to cause them some inconvenience and expense. However, there is nothing to suggest that they would find it impossible to operate from another site in the area. It may be difficult to find alternative premises at such a favourable rent, as the Director of one such firm stated, but the low rents charged by the PLA undoubtedly reflect the temporary uncertain nature of tenure in an area subject to change.
23.34. Existing firms in other parts of the Royal Docks should not be adversely affected by the STOLport proposals, though some may be affected by other development planned in the area. There is little evidence that any existing businesses rely on water access, though if water access was to be provided some firms would be likely to make use of it.
23.55. The existing high level of unemployment in Newham is not due to the lack of industrial floorspace, of which there is an abundance in the area. There is an obvious need to attract more employment uses to the area, and the STOLport could help in this respect. The number of on-site jobs and associated employment likely to be created by the STOLport is not easy to forecast. Most of the on-airport, staff would be working for the airline operators, who are not yet known for certain. It is unclear how many of these employees would be transferred to similar work elsewhere. The number of 'new jobs' and the opportunities open to local people, particularly in the early years, is also uncertain.
23.56. In terms of the actual number of jobs forecast, the applicants direct employment estimates seem sensible and not unduly optimistic. However, I share the reservations expressed by objectors about the amount of 'induced employment' which some people expect to be attracted to the area because of the presence of the STOLport. There is little hard evidence to support the opinion that a STOLport by itself would act as a major catalyst in the regeneration of the Royal Docks, and the 'induced employment' forecasts have a particularly speculative ring to them. In spite of the many letters of general support received from business concerns in the South East, few firms have actually said that they would come to the Royal Docks if the STOLport is built.
23.57. The prospects look more promising if the current proposal is seen as one element in a package of inducements which would include transport infrastructure improvements already in the pipeline, and telecommunication developments which are already being advanced. Other more tentative possibilities such as an exhibition complex and a National Garden Festival are indications of a change in attitude towards the Royal Docks as an area with potential for new ideas.
23.58. Public opinion in the area around the Royal Docks is divided on the question of the STOLport proposal. Two public opinion polls conducted by reputable independent bodies in 1982 indicated an approximately 2 to 1 split in favour of the development. The numbers of local people who appeared at the inquiry and the many letters received served to confirm that there are substantial bodies of opinion both in favour and against the STOLport. The main areas of concern expressed by residents of the area reflect the issues which were argued at the Inquiry. Petitions do not always represent an accurate measure of public feeling, but it was clear from the evidence given that substantial numbers of people hold firm and unshakable views on either side.
Summary of Conclusions
23.59. My conclusions have been reached in consultation with the Assessor, Air Vice Marshal B P Young, who is in accord with the views expressed in this Section.
23.60. The STOLport would severely inhibit one option for residential/open space/community development and it would close down any possibility of re-introducing commercial cargo handling other than by barge. However, attractive as these options are, and the land bridges idea is particularly appealing, there is plenty of other land around the docks which could be used for community or employment uses. The fact that 40 or so acres of potential housing land south of the Albert Dock Basin would be made unattractive because of aircraft noise, is an undesirable side effect of the proposal but it does not amount to a fundamental objection. Local employment uses would not suffer to any significant degree and the STOLport would be likely to generate some additional employment - possibly a substantial amount if the applicants and LDDC's more rosy forecasts materialise and the airport really does prove to be a catalyst.
23.61. The objectors have concentrated on the negative impact of the STOLport on the surrounding communities - particularly the noise and safety aspects - which they fear would make the area an even less attractive place to live in than it is now. There is some truth in this, in the sense that some people would undoubtedly feel threatened and disturbed by the airport operations. On the other hand, the positive effects of the STOLport should not be overlooked. The air of decay and dereliction on the application site would be replaced by activity, much of it spectacular; disused and deteriorating sheds would be replaced by new buildings and an airfield which could open up long views across the docks; and the water areas could be opened up to recreation. It seems likely that as many people would welcome the changes as would dislike them.
23.62. My overall conclusion is that the objections raised against the proposal are not sufficient to warrant refusal of planning permission, taking into account the benefits likely to be derived from the development. However, my judgement in this matter is based on the proposal as presented at the inquiry and the type and level of operation put forward by the applicants. If there should be any significant increase in aircraft activity or noise impact beyond the maximum levels stated at the inquiry my conclusions could well be different. Because of this, I place particular importance on the safeguards embodied in the Section 52 agreement and the planning conditions which should be attached to any outline planning permission granted.
Section 52 Agreement
23.63. The applicants, the LDDC and the PLA have signed a Section 52 agreement which provides a reasonable degree of protection to the local community against most of the unpleasant side effects which an airport development can cause. However, I do share some of the qualms of the objectors with regard to certain aspects of the Agreement.
23.64. As a means of controlling the noise impact, I favour a more direct, simple and easily understood method such as that put forward by the GLC and LBN. The applicants whole 'noise' case is based on the use of the airport by relatively quiet DASH-7 aircraft and, in my view, the airport should be restricted to DASH-7s or other STOL aircraft at least as quiet in all modes of operation - landing, taking-off or on the ground. An exception could be made with regard to the Twin Otter on the basis that one DHC-6 movement equals 3.63 DASH-7 movements. The fact that no other UK airport licensed for public use restricts operations to certain types of aircraft must be weighed against the fact that this would be a unique type of airport operating from near to the heart of a city.
23.65. The applicants and LDDC's noise impact assessments to establish the 35 NNI contour were based on 100 DASH-7 movements per day (88 in the NNI day) over a 7 day week, and the annual limit of 36,500 ATMs reflects this. While I accept that the 35 NNI contour as drawn represents an acceptable level of noise impact overall, I do not consider 100 ATMs on Saturdays and Sundays would be tolerable. I agree with the GLC and Newham Borough Council that 40 ATM's per day is the maximum acceptable level of operations at the week-ends. This would result in an average of 580 ATMs in a week, reducing the annual total to 30,160. In order to cater for fluctuations and peak days, the daily maximum should be set at 120 ATMS with 40 ATMs on week-end days. This is more than the applicants' aeronautical witness anticipated as the peak day 'worst case' requirement in year 6. I am not persuaded that a limit on the number of evening flights is needed.
23.66. Summarising my views on noise control, aircraft types should be restricted as described in paragraph 23.64 above and flights should be-limited to the equivalent of 30,160 DASH-7 movements per year, 120 per day from Monday to Friday and 40 per day on Saturdays or Sundays. If aircraft types and ATMs are both controlled as suggested, there would be no need for continuous noise monitoring around the airport, Any airline could apply to have its aircraft certificated to land at the STOLport and any future STOL aircraft would be eligible subject to their compliance with the noise criteria. In view of this, the safeguard can hardly be regarded as unduly restrictive. Any infringements would be immediately apparent to both the airport operator and any one else.
23.67. If these controls are legally acceptable as planning conditions, they should be attached to the planning permission granted. If not, planning permission should be withheld until the Section 52 agreement is amended accordingly. Since the Section 52 agreement permits the limitation on the number of ATMs to be altered by agreement of the parties or, failing agreement, by arbitration the additional safeguard provided by a planning condition is desirable. While I agree that some form of penalty clause would be useful to discourage breaches of the agreement, its absence is not a ground for refusal of planning permission.
23.68. My impression is that many local people would feel easier if Newham Borough Council would sign the Section 52 agreement, and in particular if their consent ms required before any changes could be made in the agreement. It is to be hoped that the Consultative Committee will prove to be an effective link between the local people and the airport operators.
23.69. All of the local authorities at the inquiry agreed that certain planning conditions should be attached to any grant of planning permission. I agree with this view and the following comments are made with regard to the LDDC's draft set of conditions (document 43) as a point of common reference:
Condition 1 relates to the submission of reserved matters. While I accept that there is a need to avoid unnecessary delays, I feel that 2 years should be allowed for the submission of details to allow for the resolution of any technical problems or the requirements of the aerodrome licence.
Condition 2 covers the content of reserved matters and all item appear to be necessary and appropriate, however I agree with the applicants that the words 'before any work commences on the site' could cause unnecessary delays and should be deleted. I also agree with the applicants' suggestion that a condition be attached requiring them to seek approval at the detailed planning stage for an overlapping runway to allow clearance of the East London River Crossing, should that be built as a suspension bridge. The Department of Transport objection was withdrawn in the light of this undertaking.
Condition 3 should he amended to limit Ďany runway' designated for aircraft use to a maximum of 762 m in length. This would cater for an overlap runway if one should subsequently be needed.
Condition 4 (requiring noise barriers) is needed to protect surrounding areas. In view of the vital role which the proposed hangar/terminal/acoustic screen would perform in shielding the Drew Road/Camel Road area from ground noise, I agree with Mr R Taylor's suggestion that a planning condition should be added to ensure that structures providing the equivalent noise screening are to be erected in these positions. The wording of draft Condition 4 could be improved by prohibiting aircraft operations until a perimeter fence and other noise barriers have been erected of such a type and in such positions as may be agreed with the local planning authority, or in default of agreement, as shall be determined by the Secretary of State.
Condition 5, limiting the hours of operation, should be amended to between 0630 and 2200 hours except on Sundays when the hours should be 0900 to 2200 hours. In my view 2200 is the latest hour at which any one should be subjected to aircraft noise at night and 0900 is the earliest reasonable time for an airport to make its presence felt on a Sunday. I note the view that the 'emergency' exception could be abused, but I suspect that any attempts to define the type of emergency would be easy to circumvent and hard to enforce.
Condition 6 (restricting ground running of engines) is necessary and appropriate subject to the hours being amended as in Condition 5 above.
Condition 7 (restricting night aircraft maintenance) is necessary, the LDDC wording being preferred, subject to the hours being amended as in Condition 5.
Condition 8 (banning helicopters) is necessary for the reasons raised by both sides during the inquiry with which I agree. My comments on the 'emergency' definition in Condition 5 apply here as well, though in view of the amount of open land in the vicinity on which a helicopter could land in a genuine emergency, it is difficult to see the need for a special provision to allow them to land at the STOLport.
Condition 9 (banning club or recreational flying) and Condition 10 (prohibiting pipes on outer faces of buildings) are needed on environmental and aesthetic grounds respectively.
Condition 11 (roof plant) - I agree with the applicants that this condition duplicates Condition 2d and should be omitted.
Condition 12, restricting the site to airport use, is both necessary and appropriate.
Condition 13 should be amended to prohibit pile driving between 1900 and 0800 hours from Mondays to Saturdays and altogether on Sundays to avoid undue disturbance.
23.70. Although there are obvious advantages in prohibiting the use of Auxiliary Power Units, it seems doubtful whether a condition banning their use would be enforceable, since it would seek to control a third party's method of operation. Also the airport operators are unlikely to maintain any lighting other than for essential security purposes after operations finish each night, so a condition to ensure this seems unnecessary.
23.71. I recommend that outline planning permission be granted subject to the condition referred to above.
I have the honour to be, Sir
Your obedient Servant
M I MONTAGUE-SMITH
An independent Consultative Committee established by London City Airport pursuant to Section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982
Page last modified: 27th July 2007