Kent island airport 'best solution' to meet flight demand

Thames Estuary Image copyright Testrad
Image caption The airport would be in the Thames Estuary, off the Isle of Sheppey

An airport built off the Kent coast is the only practical way to meet the South East's rising demand for air travel, an economist claims.

Bridget Rosewell, former economic adviser to the Greater London Authority, says she has "worked up" Mayor Boris Johnson's island plans.

She says a five or six-runway hub, linked to Ebbsfleet station, would eliminate noise and minimise traffic.

Opponents say such an airport will harm the environment and threaten Heathrow.

'Double' Heathrow capacity

Ms Rosewell, who runs an economic analysis partnership and holds a number of non-executive directorships, believes it would not take much longer to build than a third runway at Heathrow - one of the other options under consideration.

The Thames Estuary airport, being called London Jubilee International Airport, would be able to handle around 150m passengers a year - more than double Heathrow's current capacity - and is estimated to cost up to £50bn.

Ms Rosewell says it could be built within eight years and be open by 2025 - only a year or so later than a third Heathrow runway would be expected to be in operation.

A key element of the scheme is that the airport terminal would be at Ebbsfleet railway station, which has a high-speed link to London and the continent.

She said: "Here is a proposition which would allow you to have as large an airport as you would want or need... And there would be no noise over Kent because the noise footprint would be over the water."

Ms Rosewell plans to submit her initial proposals to the review being conducted by Sir Howard Davies, who was appointed by the prime minister to investigate potential solutions to the demand for more airline capacity in south-east England.

Community 'blight'

However, a substantially enlarged version of Boris Johnson's vision for an island airport will inevitably run into the same sort of opposition that his - and architect Sir Norman Foster's similar plans for the Isle of Grain - have already encountered.

Kent County Council has dubbed Mr Johnson's plans unviable and unrealistic.

Medway Council says they would blight local communities and wants the extra demand to be met through expansion of existing airports.

Environmentalists predict problems with bird-strike, and Kent Green Party told BBC News the UK should be looking to reduce the number of flights - not increase them - to cut carbon emissions and the consequent impact on climate change.

And even the group which has been representing the millions of people under the Heathrow flightpath has mixed feelings about the estuary proposals.

John Stewart, chairman of Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan), said: "The evidence suggests that Heathrow would probably need to shut down, or certainly be scaled down considerably.

"A huge number would benefit noise-wise, but an equal number would 'disbenefit' jobs-wise."

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