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Policy T8 Aviation


  1. The Mayor supports the case for additional aviation capacity in the south east of England providing it would meet London’s passenger and freight needs, recognising that this is crucial to London’s continuing prosperity and to maintaining its international competitiveness and world-city status.
  2. The Mayor supports the role of London’s airports in enhancing London’s spatial growth, particularly within Opportunity Areas well connected to the airports by public transport and which can accommodate significant numbers of new homes and jobs.
  3. The environmental impacts of aviation must be fully acknowledged and the aviation industry should fully meet its external and environmental costs particularly in respect of noise, air quality and climate change; any airport expansion scheme must be appropriately assessed and if required demonstrate that there is an overriding public interest or no suitable alternative solution with fewer environmental impacts.
  4. The Mayor will oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport unless it can be shown that no additional noise or air quality harm would result, and that the benefits of future regulatory and technology improvements would be fairly shared with affected communities.
  5. All airport expansion proposals should demonstrate how public transport and other surface access networks would accommodate resulting increases in demand alongside forecast background growth; this should include credible plans by the airport for funding and delivery of the required infrastructure.
  6. Proposals that would lead to changes in airport operations or air traffic movements must take full account of their environmental impacts and the views of affected communities. Any changes to London’s airspace must treat London’s major airports equitably when airspace is allocated.
  7. Better use should be made of existing airport capacity, underpinned by upgraded passenger and freight facilities and improved surface access links, in particular rail.
  8. Airport operators should work closely with airlines, Transport for London and other transport providers and stakeholders to ensure straightforward, seamless and integrated connectivity and to improve facilities and inclusive access. They should also increase the proportion of journeys passengers and staff make by sustainable means such as rail, bus and cycling, and minimise the environmental impacts of airport servicing and onward freight transport.
  9. Development of general and business aviation activity should generally be supported providing this would not lead to additional environmental harm, or impact on scheduled flight operations. Any significant shift in the mix of operations using an airport – for example introduction of scheduled flights at airports not generally offering such flights – should normally be refused.
  10. New heliports should be refused, other than for emergency services, and steps should be taken to reduce helicopters overflying London.

London’s major airports provide essential connectivity for passengers and freight, support vital trade, inward investment and tourism, generate prosperity, and provide and support significant numbers of jobs.

The aviation industry must fully address its environmental and health impacts. Government and industry must also recognise local communities’ concerns about aviation noise and pollution, consult fully with those affected, and use new technologies to deliver tangible reductions in noise exposure and pollution.

It is important to make best use of existing airport capacity, which fast, frequent, sustainable surface access can support. Opportunity Areas with excellent airport rail connections can serve as airport gateways and be the focus for new development, in turn helping meet London’s need for new homes and jobs.

The Mayor recognises the need for additional runway capacity in the south east of England, but this should not be at the expense of London’s environment or the health of its residents. Hundreds of thousands of Londoners are already exposed to illegal levels of air pollution and significant noise pollution as a result of Heathrow airport’s current operations and activities.

Airport expansion should only be taken forward on the basis that noise impacts are avoided, minimised and mitigated, and proposals should not seek to claim or utilise noise improvements resulting from technology improvements unrelated to expansion. Nor should expansion result in significant numbers of new people being exposed to new or additional noise harm.

Airport expansion should not worsen existing air quality or contribute to exceedance of air quality limits, nor should it seek to claim or utilise air quality improvements resulting from unrelated Mayoral, local or national policies and actions. Airport expansion should also incorporate Air Quality Positive principles to minimise operational and construction impacts.

The Mayor will therefore strongly oppose any expansion of Heathrow Airport that would result in additional environmental harm. Air quality gains secured by the Mayor or noise reductions resulting from new technology must be used to improve public health, not to support expansion. The Mayor also believes that expansion at Gatwick could deliver significant benefits to London and the UK more quickly, at less cost, and with significantly fewer adverse environmental impacts. Stansted Airport could, in due course, make better use of its single runway if its flight cap were raised, subject to appropriate environmental mitigation and controls. London City Airport is working to upgrade its passenger facilities and enhance operational efficiency in conjunction with a reduction of its maximum permitted number of movements and the introduction of additional environmental mitigation measures. Luton and Southend airports are also undertaking substantial upgrades of their terminal facilities.

Any airport expansion proposals must show that surface transport networks would be able to accommodate the additional trips they would lead to. It will not be sufficient to rely on schemes designed to cater for background growth such as the Elizabeth Line, Thameslink and Crossrail 2. If significant airport expansion is to be accommodated sustainably and not lead to additional road traffic movements, this will require major investment by the airport authority and central Government in new infrastructure, particularly rail, in order to deliver the necessary additional capacity and connectivity.

The aviation impacts on climate change must be fully recognised and emissions from aviation activities must be compatible with national and international obligations to tackle climate change. The implications for other sectors and other airports must also be fully understood when expansion proposals are brought forward, and aviation greenhouse gas emissions must be aligned with the Mayor’s carbon reduction targets.

Air freight plays an important role in supporting industry in London and the UK, and the provision of both bellyhold and dedicated freighter capacity should be an important consideration when plans for airport development in the south east of England are taken forward.

General and business aviation, typically utilising smaller airports, can complement and help sustain London’s economy. However, the introduction of scheduled flights at such airports can significantly impact local communities, and scheduled flights should therefore normally operate from London’s major airports which also tend to have much better surface and public transport networks in place.

The noise impacts from helicopters can be considerable and the regime governing helicopter flights over London should be urgently reviewed. An updated regime should take full account of London’s spatial growth and changes in technology to reduce noise impacts and safety risks.