Thames Estuary airport rejection no surprise

Artist's impression of island airport The airport plans on the Isle of Grain were designed by Lord Foster's architectural firm

Related Stories

Few people will have been surprised by the announcement that a hub airport in the Thames estuary will not now be one of the options considered by the government when it looks to increase aviation capacity.

The plan, championed by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, was certainly ambitious and always looked like it only ever had an outside chance of being adopted.

It would have led to the development of a four-runway airport on the Isle of Grain and was up against huge environmental issues.

Financially it was also seen to be prohibitive - with even the least ambitious version of the plans costing about £70m more than the other options.

Start Quote

Boris can claim to be a visionary politician who has opposed Heathrow expansion”

End Quote

Mr Johnson is - as you'd expect - deeply disappointed with the decision to rule out the estuary option, which he said was "a gigantic smokescreen for a U-turn on Heathrow".

He also said that politicians "have not got the guts" to admit the real reason for the estuary plan being rejected.

Mr Johnson said Sir Howard Davies had ruled out the estuary project "because he has not got the support in Whitehall to go ahead with it".

'Vanity project'
Boris Johnson Boris Johnson has championed the Thames Estuary airport plan

Those who backed a new Thames estuary hub point to the fact it would have helped regenerate a deprived part of Kent and created thousands of jobs.

But Labour reacted strongly, saying that including the Thames estuary option in the Davies Commission was a waste of time and money.

The shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh added: "Time and public money should never have been spent on his vanity project whose costs have been put at up to £100bn.

"This back of a fag packet scheme was designed less for the country's economic future and more for the omnishables mayor's political ambitions."

The Davies Commission will now look at the three remaining options: building a third runway at Heathrow, constructing a second at Gatwick or lengthening the existing runway at Heathrow.

Arguably, the rejection will not damage Boris Johnson's reputation - he can claim to be a visionary politician who has opposed Heathrow expansion.

No closer

In recent days he has softened his stance on that issue too - suggesting Heathrow Airport could continue to exist as a secondary airport alongside a four-runway "Boris Island" hub on the Thames.estuary.

Isle of Grain The Isle of Grain is located on the Hoo Peninsula and is almost all marshland

His apparent U-turn on the decision will also be helpful to him when he stands as the Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which would be affected by the job closures resulting from Heathrow's closure.

So, today we know that a brand new hub airport will not be built in the UK but we are no closer to knowing how the government plans to tackle the country's lack of aviation capacity.

This long and drawn out saga also shows no sign of reaching a conclusion any time soon, as the Howard Commission won't report back until after the next election.

And while hub airports are being expanded and developed elsewhere in Europe, Heathrow is running at almost 99% capacity.

There's a feeling amongst business leaders that whatever the decision on the future of aviation, it must be taken soon.

Louise Stewart Article written by Louise Stewart Louise Stewart Political editor, South East

Rochester and Strood: Mark Reckless win never in real doubt

Political Editor Louise Stewart looks at the potential fall-out from the Rochester and Strood by-election.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Anybody who knows the history of 'island' airports such as Hong Kong or Kansai [Japan] will know that they were both heavily opposed by luddites. Now both are World class air terminals. The cobbled together Heathrow and in the middle of nowhere Gatwick will always be second class. Does anyone really believe they will stop at just 'one more runway', I seem to remember they said that twice before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Why would it harm Boris. He is known as a buffoon, as comic relief. Any attempt to rise in government will reveal his poor decision making which is currently hidden by populism. Cameron already has Theresa May dropping the ball at every turn, Boris is not what he needs. Maybe make him. Minister for EU so he can be blamed when it goes wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I'd put a large wager on it being Heathrow because the key purpose is to have a hub airport which it is already and the extra costs and time of developing the alternatives to competitive hub status rule them out.

    I see the Davis review is an expensive political delaying tactic and Boris - who may even be PM when the decision is made - would change his mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Heathrow has had much spent on transport links and people have bought property based on its location. Boris is motivated to protect property prices in Conservative Constituencies in West London and the Tory Shires. Whilst I did not feel Gordon Brown was a great PM (Great Chancellor yes - no Euro) at last if Labour had ben returned expansion would be underway. Talk is cheap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    It was surely always unacceptable to even think of building ANYTHING on such a remote, unspoilt area. I wonder if even 10% of the people living in the SE have ever even been there.
    It's beautiful, and in no circumstances should anyone propose to build an airport somewhere that currently has nothing.
    My husband insists that this Hub airport could be built absolutely anywhere in the UK!


Comments 5 of 49



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.