London City Airport sits in the heart of London's famous Royal Docks. The airport of the Square Mile residing in one of London's poorest communities has always struck me as a tad peculiar.
Plans are afoot to expand City Airport with their development planning application being considered by Newham Council. If approved it will see construction work carried out over a 7-year period and will allow for increased air and necessitate increased road traffic. The pollution in Newham is already dangerously high - exceeding EU legal limits by 50%. And as anyone who has walked around the docks will tell you, the noise pollution coming from the airport is astounding.
Unsurprisingly the residents of the Royal Docks aren't thrilled by the prospect of increased air pollution and noise.
On Monday morning the (21st July) people who live near London City Airport were joined by young people from climate change campaign The Future in a protest against the airport's planned expansion.
I am proud to say I was one of the young people that took part in this protest. We stood together at the entrance to City Airport with The Future's symbol (a circle painted around our eye) watching the airports passengers and staff for half an hour. We finished our protest when a beautiful poem was read out by one of our number outlining a vision of a brighter future for everyone whose lives are blighted by City Airport.
That morning, I guess to those passing through, we the protesters were the oddity on display. But for the people of Newham the airport plays the role of the misplaced figure everyday.
As you read this you may be thinking: so what? An airport growing in an area where I don't live, what has this got to do with me? My answer would be: more than you would think.
The plans to grow City Airport are indicative of the shortsighted approach to developing modern cities. Let us not forget, we're experiencing yet another housing bubble dragging us out of a long hard recession.
With the expansion of the airport there are no credible new economic plans in motion. This is business as usual. It might as well be 2008, as our politicians and big business refuse to offer us alternatives to a economic approach that has failed us so badly.
Currently London City Airport occupies a space of 500,000 square metres. A recent report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) believes the airport should be closed given the dire shortage of homes in London and the significant environmental burden of City Airport coupled with it's poor economic contribution and with only 2.4% of London's flight demand being served by City Airport passengers could use Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
The borough of Newham is at the crossroads in deciding it's future. It has a huge opportunity to develop thousands of new houses, create an abundance of hi-tech green jobs. Work with the local communities to support the development of small businesses designed to serve the best interests of the communities and create jobs for local people.
It can choose to build world-class cycling infrastructure doing creating a real post Olympics fitness legacy. It would be saying no to record air pollution levels and no to noise pollution. Newham can become a truly green borough created to serve it's residents and not the interests of big business.
Alternatively it can choose the business as usual approach and say yes to airport expansion. This will mean more people getting sick because of law breaking air quality levels and residents having to endure more deafening noise pollution. In addition to the continued isolation of residents and spiralling increases in rental and house prices.
Now do me a quick favour. Please close your eyes and cast your mind forward twenty years into the future.
Do you dream of glass buildings with silver trims? Shopping malls and an endless line of chain restaurants?
Or when you close your eyes, do you see trees blowing in the wind? Rivers flowing, people laughing and exploring nature.
I am pretty sure I know what vision of the future you preferred... You believe in the future as much as I do, as much as our children do. We are the future, united we stand... We refuse to be victims. And together we're watching.