Sunday, May 31, 2009

London City Airport,The University of East London and Knowledge Dock

Some time ago a resident came across a community report produced by the University East London (UEL) which was presented in the LCA's airport expansion plan. As you would expect the report skimmed over the real impact on communities, and yet again, in our opinion, was a paid for consultants whitewash of a report.

The University is based immediately opposite London City Airport, just across the dock. It's always puzzled us why UEL never objected to the increase in flights, noise and pollution. More so because, not only do they have the teaching campus situated by the airport, but also some recently built student accomodation blocks nearer to the Albert Basin. Residents have been talking to the students down on the campus, and the students do indeed complain of the noise from the airport. Why wouldn't they when jets pass in front of their homes just a few hundred yards away, and the din is heard throughout the university campus.

So indeed it is curious that UEL didn't object in view of this effect. But as you all know Fight the Flights (FTF) love a bit of ferreting around and using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to uncover information that some public bodies like to hide, and the results of the FOI requests are nearly always illuminating, on many counts. We should state, that a resident had emailed Mr Macrury, the project leader, twice, and had left a phone message once asking for further information on the community project. He failed on those three occasions to even acknowledge. This made us even more suspicious about the involvement of UEL with London City Airport.

So a FTF resident put in a FOI request to UEL asking them:
Could you please indicate:

1. If you have carried out any work, either paid or voluntary for
London City Airport or any of it's agents.

If so: please indicate what the work was (listing type and date),
the renumeration received (for each piece of work) and any gifts or
hospitality received.

2. Please indicate any other funding received by London City
Airport or any of it's agents.

They came back to us with the following answers to our two questions:

A 1. We have not carried out any work, either paid or voluntary for London
City Airport or any of its agents.

A 2. We have received three separate donations of £1,000 each (total £3,000)
from London City Airport to support our business plan competition 'E-factor.'
Brief details of the 'E-factor' competition can be found here:

Hmmm, no mention of any 'community report/project' in that answer! So then we requested an internal review, and asked why they had not declared the work carried out for the London City Airport Expansion Plan. It seems that UEL had suffered from a bit of amnesia and they somehow then remembered the work after this request:
Further to your recent request for a review of your recent freedom if
information request we have reconsidered our response. In your original
inquiry you asked us if we had carried our any work, whether paid or
voluntary, 'on behalf of London City Airport or any of its agents.' Having
carried out a thorough review of our financial records and contracts we are
satisfied that our original response was given in good faith and is, to the
best of our knowledge and belief, accurate. We are satisfied that we have no
records of contracts, or agreements, commissioning work, either paid or
unpaid, in which London City Airport and this institution have been parties.
We are also satisfied that we have had no similar contracts, or agreements,
with third parties identifying themselves as agents of London City Airport.
We have not received any sums from London City Airport other than those
disclosed in our response to your recent inquiry.

Our subsidiary company entered into a consultancy contract with York
Aviation. We accept that third parties (in this case York Aviation) may have
contracts or agreements with London City Airport in which work carried out by
our University is passed on, but not being parties to such contracts or
agreements ourselves we have no record of them.

Yours faithfully,

[University of East London request email]
University of East London
4-6 University Way
E16 2RD

So, York Aviation commissioned the work, on behalf of London City Airport! We think that makes York Aviation an 'agent'. So we went back for yet more clarification on which was appearing to be a rather muddy area! And why didn't UEL want to name this subsidiary of theirs?
Dear David,

Please state the name of the University of East London's

Also please could you indicate if it is the following work which
you are referring to:

Mr I Macrury was the project leader and an employee of the
University of East London, carried out a piece of work, listed
beneath and displayed on your own web site. There is no mention
that this work is carried out in liaison with York Aviation:

University of East London LONDON EAST Research Institute London
City Airport A study assessing the likely social and cultural
impacts arising from any change strategies introduced as part of
the London City Airport master plan. The proposed study will
involve a survey of local attitudes and value orientations towards
the airport, on the part of both long established and newly arrived
residents in Silvertown, North Woolwich, Beckton and Custom House.
In addition we will be auditing the perceived past, present and
future role of London City Airport amongst regeneration and
community organisations in Newham

Project Co-ordinator: Iain MacRury

Could you please provide the details as I originally requested for
the above piece of work and any other work carried out under the
same umbrella for London City Airport or any of its agents.

So would we get the whole truth, and nothing but the truth this time?
Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your e-mail message dated 23 April.

Our subsidiary company is Knowledge Dock (UEL) Limited, which is a wholly
independent limited company registered under the companies acts (registration
number 3576958). As a registered company, Knowledge Dock (UEL) Limited is
not a publicly funded institution and thus lies outside the scope of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 in relation to the disclosure of documents
that are either the property of the Company, or have been generated wholly
through contracts made between the Company and other third parties.

We were happy to disclose the fact that our subsidiary company had entered
into a contract with York aviation in order to clarify any misunderstanding
that might have arisen as a consequence of our not disclosing in response to
your original inquiry, which was about work that our University had carried
out 'on behalf of London City Airport or any of its agents,' work that London
City Airport had referred to in its published master plan. We are not,
however, in a position to disclose particulars of the contract or the report
that was produced because the work was conducted under a commercial agreement
between our subsidiary company and York Aviation.

Although the contract itself is confidential, Mr MacRury, however, has
informed us that the results of the work that was carried out under this
commercial contract are publicly available. They are reflected in the master
plan subsequently published by London City Airport.

The information published by the London East Research Institute on its web
pages does refer to the same piece of work that was the subject of the
contract between York Aviation and our subsidiary company. We agree that the
connection with York Aviation is not mentioned, but this web page is intended
to inform the public about projects and consultancy carried out by the London
East Research Institute and there is no legal, or contractual, obligation for
the name of the contractor, or any other commercially sensitive information,
to be disclosed in these reports.

Yours faithfully,

[University of East London request email]
University of East London
4-6 University Way
E16 2RD


Oh, so now we have the full information, but with UEL claiming that Knowledge Dock was a privately owned company, so they couldn't possibly share any more information on it? Hmm, well we thought so and then an annotation was added by another fantastic member of the community.

In fact it turns out that Knowledge Dock is not a private company at all, and UEL have even listed it in their annual report:


"According to UEL's Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2008 (, page 31), both of the shares in Knowledge Dock (UEL) Ltd are owned by UEL. This makes Knowledge Dock (UEL) Ltd a publicly-owned company under section 6 of the FOIA and hence a public authority for FOI purposes."

And if you go here you'll find it listed on the fantastic 'What do they know' website.

So if you have ever wondered why FTF gets so fed up with the behaviour of those linked to London City Airport, and the underhand secretive activities of the aviation industry and their agetns (such as UEL trying to hide the fact that York Aviation paid for them for this project) then this should give you a good idea why. Wonder why UEL didn't object to 50% more flights and BIGGER, NOISIER JETS? Well the answer is in this blog too.

Incestuous business relationships between the airport, it's aviation agents, the local council and dissapointingly now the local university. Nice little move by York and LCA to get UEL to do the research and neutralise any possible objection.

The erosion of democracy, moral and ethical business values appears to be based in the heart of Newham. However the lengths that UEL went to in trying to withold this information indicate even they feel uncomfortable about the whole situation.
And we WILL be asking for all the details on the work from the publically owned Knowledge Dock subsidiary of UEL.