Green party mayoral candidate Sian Berry says she would use City Hall and local council cash to buy City Airport and then close it if elected in May.
The airport’s owners, Global Infrastructure Partners, were delivered a serious blow last year when current Mayor Boris Johnson blocked its expansion amid fears that local residents would be exposed to “adverse noise impacts”.
GIP has now placed the airport, which carries around 3.3 million passengers a year, on the market and are hoping to raise at least £2bn from the sale.
A number of major investors, including insurance group Allianz, are understood to have tabled bids. The Greens say they would hope to persuade the German-based insurer, which recently divested from coal, to commit to closing the airport if its bid is successful.
Should this approach fail, Berry says she would “form a consortium between City Hall, local councils and businesses” to make a rival bid and, if successful, close the airport and redevelop the site to provide thousands of new homes and “at least 16,000” jobs.
The mayoral hopeful said the airport is “of negligible importance” to Britain’s aviation needs and claimed it would “become even more irrelevant once Crossrail opens and provides a fast connection between Canary Wharf and Heathrow.”
She added: “It’s holding back London’s economic potential, undermining the existing enterprise zone here in Newham, and causing untold health and environmental problems to thousands of local residents.
“If this prime piece of the land were used sustainably for innovative businesses, residential areas, leisure, cultural facilities and shops, it would go a long way towards solving many of London’s problems at the same time.”
However Berry’s campaign have been unwilling to answer a number of key questions about how her policy would work.
A spokesperson declined to say what would happen if the airport’s current owners refused to sell it to her proposed consortium and also failed to say whether the campaign had investigated what contractual obligations the new owners would inherit.
However it seems likely that the airport would have to remain operational until at least 2019 as the current owners signed a five-year deal with Flybe in 2014 to base some of its domestic and international routes at the airport.
Such long-term deals could force Berry and her co-owners to continue operating the airport until contracts with each airline expired to avoid facing action for breach of contract or having to use taxpayer money to buy out the contracts.
Both City Hall and local councils are facing cuts in the grants they receive from central government, forcing each to review, and in some cases close, key services.
Berry’s campaign has not said which current City Hall spending they would axe to free up cash for the bid.
Source: Mayor Watch