Dyson backs Lord Foster scheme for Thames Hub airport

Sir James Dyson
Image caption Sir James Dyson said the UK needed the airport to be a "force in the future"

A plan for a £50bn four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary, built partly on reclaimed land, has won the backing of designer Sir James Dyson.

The airport on the Isle of Grain in Kent, which could handle 150m passengers a year, was outlined by architect Lord Foster on Wednesday.

Sir James said the UK needed large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Thames Hub airport.

Opponents of the idea include Medway Council and Friends of the Earth.

"There was a time when Britain's infrastructure was envied across the globe," Sir James said. "Our railways, roads and sewers put us well ahead of our European neighbours in the race to industrialise.

"But we have lost the ambition and vision of our Victorian ancestors. It's time we did something. We need to revive the thinking on a grand scale that characterised the Victorian age of invention."

The inventor, who designed the Dyson vacuum, told the Mail on Sunday that despite annual airport passenger numbers in the UK standing at 127 million it was not prepared for the future.

"All those passengers have money to spend and many have business deals to sign," he said. "If Britain wants to be a force in the future we must have the infrastructure to keep them coming.

Image caption The Thames Hub would be built partly on reclaimed land, with aircraft approaching over water

"Large-scale infrastructure projects offer a solution and, rather than pie-in-the sky, projects such as the proposed Thames Estuary airport are exactly what we need."

The Thames Hub airport would have high-speed rail connections to London, the Midlands and northern England as well as continental Europe and links to key ports.

Lord Foster's scheme also includes a new Thames Barrier for flood protection and to generate carbon-free energy from the tide.

Medway Council denounced the Isle of Grain as one of the worst places anyone could build a new airport.

"The Isle of Grain is home to one of the world's largest liquefied natural gas terminals," said leader Rodney Chambers.

"It is obvious that aircraft and huge gas containers are a potentially lethal mix."

Friends of the Earth said building the airport would have a "devastating impact" on wildlife.

"The aviation industry has been selling our environment down the river for far too long - ministers must say 'no' to airport expansion and the climate devastation it would bring," spokesman Paul de Zylva said.

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