Wednesday, December 15, 2010

London City Airport Continues to Fail Local Residents

Or how the fat cats continue to use your tax money to avoid paying their own way and promote it as 'community work'.

London City Airport spend a lot of time on Public Relations.  They go into overdrive, but spectacularly continue to alienate the residents who suffer the most as they are rarely, if ever made contact with.

The airport is keen at putting out press releases on how many t shirts it has bought, or how many hampers it has given away, or the latest christmas card competition for schools in Newham and Tower Hamlets, or how they've sent someone to talk to schoolchildren about careers.  But the airport owes the community much, much more especially the residents. But it's the residents, and what they have to put up with, who are consistently ignored. 

The airport currently saves £7 million every year by refusing to contribute to it's security costs to the Metropolitan Police. It would perhaps be admirable if the airport would simply pay up, but as a consolation the airport could offer that money to the charities and schools it wishes to support, rather than expect London taxpayers to pay 100% of their security costs in the first place. This selfish, greedy action of London City Airport deprives the London public purse of huge amounts of money which would indeed be filtered back down into policing and education as it should be.

Instead the airport goes for the cheapest deal of all and donated around £36,000 to charities last year. Not to be sniffed at of course, but read on and you will see the bigger picture. Some of those thousands will be the donations given directly by residents and passed through the middleman of LCY from the Funday etc.  But for an airport that avoids paying £7m a year, it makes the donation look relatively small  in comparision and clearly the impact of not paying the £7m has a far greater impact on reducing services to you, the resident in your community.  Of course more public money from London tax payers was also poured into this private business owned by a bank and hedge funders GIP: the London Development Agency gave them a huge amount of grants to build additional aircraft stands and set up their LCY website! Can you believe it, they were actually given  taxpayers money to set up their website, how many small businesses would ever get that help?

The public relations are clearly welcome to those that are receiving the gifts and advice, however there is one huge flaw: London City Airport continue to fail to engage fully and openly with residents who suffer the most. Not only do they fail to engage, they have consistently failed to put any plan together to effectively improve residents quality of life as a result of the airports operations.  The draft noise action plan was a wonderful illustration of this - the airport felt at the time of drafting that nothing was bad, and there was no need for them to make any efforts to reduce or keep noise to the current levels - business as usual then! Those 1000s of individuals who make up East London, and who are the life and soul are invisible to London City Airport, they are the inconvenient truth, a reminder of the bad things that happen around airports, the pollution, the noise - all things that the airport prefers to ignore or deny.

Our argument is not that the airport are giving t shirts away or speaking to schoolchildren or donating money to charities, we think that is what any large corporate business who receives lots of public funding should indeed do: but  is about why they are not proactively looking for solutions to improve the environment and residents quality of lives in the areas affected. They are IGNORING residents suffering. 

It is a half baked PR strategy, a cynical one that completely ignores the ordinary resident of the streets, roads and closes that suffer intolerably from flights 7 days a week and if they have their way will simply get worse. It's always been the same at LCY, their communication with residents has been defensive, poor and of little help in providing accurate information. Residents have simply been left to pick up the pieces, year on year, and no better example was the one where residents were left to deal with the extra 20,000 flights the airport operated despite it being against the planning agreement. It translated into a noise nightmare that year and you know, they didn't care about residents, they, GIP were simply counting the dollars and pounds.

Ask yourself, what have LCY done to help you with noise and pollution from their operations? It's likely that a few of you have been told to keep your windows closed and have mechanical ventilation which is noisy,costly to run and leaves the room stifling, or they simply said they can't help you at all even though you live in the noise contour.

That, we are afraid, is the naked truth and no amount of PR trips to the local school are going to help the resident who has to put up with excessive noise and air pollution 7 days a week for almost every day of the year. Residents are simply left asking for help, and getting little or nothing in return whilst the MET are pretty much in the same boat with the airport, asking for their money but never getting it.

Perhaps it's time the airport put it's brave hat on,faced the residents and started looking at and working towards positive solutions to deal with the dirty noisy industry they want to make lots of money from at the expense of the local community. Residents have had no choice but to face up to reality, it's about time London City Airport did too.