'Boris Island' Plan Rejected As Not Viable

Third runway at Heathrow now looks most likely option

The option of building a new hub airport for London in the Thames Estuary has been rejected by the Airports Commission.

'Boris Island' - Picture: Foster and Partners 

The chairman of the commission, Sir Howard Davies, concluded in his report that the option was too expensive, too economically and environmentally disruptive and therefore unviable.

The 'Boris Island' option would have cost at least £70 billion which is well in excess of the cost of expanding existing airports.

His final report will give a short list of three options for airport expansion which are a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow or another runway at Gatwick. Aviation experts believe that the wording of the report shows that the Commission is leaning towards the third Heathrow runway option.

Mayor Boris Johnson, who has been the leading proponent of this option, has refused to accept the commissions finding saying that plans to expand either at Heathrow or Gatwick were doomed to failure due to the huge opposition they would face.

Mr. Johnson said: "Howard Davies must explain to the people of London how he can possibly envisage that an expansion of Heathrow, which would create unbelievable levels of noise, blight and pollution, is a better idea than a new airport to the east of London that he himself admits is visionary, and which would create the jobs and growth this country needs to remain competitive."

The Mayor recently put himself forward for Uxbridge parliamentary constituency in the next election. If he gained the nomination he would be contesting a seat which was right next to Heathrow.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “I don’t expect that this will mean that Boris Johnson or his supporters will give up on the idea of a brand new airport. The idea of an island airport is likely to be floating around for some time yet. Johnson remains an implacable opponent of a third runway at Heathrow and has reservations about the value of a second runway at Gatwick.”

Richard Tracey, GLA Conservative London Assembly Member for Merton and Wandsworth, has condemned the decision to reject plans for a hub airport in the Thames Estuary. He said:
“London needs a globally competitive hub airport. In ruling out the Thames Estuary plans, the Commission has just ruled out the only remaining option that fits the bill. In reality it is the Commission itself that should be scrapped. Building a new runway at Gatwick will simply just mean a bigger Gatwick.

"A third runway at Heathrow would cause misery for millions of Londoners without solving the problem. The Davies Commission, with a budget of £20m, is heading down a blind alley, whilst wasting time and taxpayer cash. The Government must pull the plug and adopt the Mayor of London’s Estuary airport solution."

Meanwhile Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia is cautioning ministers against further expansion of Heathrow Airport warning it would “deal a devastating environmental blow to millions of Londoners”.

Councillor Govindia said: ”Millions of Londoners already suffer intolerable levels of noise pollution and disturbance from aircraft flying to and from Heathrow. Huge swathes of west and south west London, as well as parts of Berkshire are seriously affected now. 

 “Allowing a third and even possibly a fourth runway to be built at Heathrow would mean hundreds of thousands of additional flight to and from the airport every year. The extra noise this would create is simply unacceptable. Millions more people would find themselves living under a new Heathrow flightpath and suffering the problems this creates. 

“If Heathrow had never been built no one would now be advocating it as a suitable site for a huge new airport. In our view it exceeded its limits a long time ago. It would be absolute folly to allow it to expand any further. “

Our opposition to a bigger Heathrow does not mean that we are against additional airport capacity in the south east. On the contrary we fully accept the economic case and agree that opening up additional air routes to other parts of the globe is good for growth and good for Britain’s economy. The issue for us is the absolute necessity of choosing the right location. If the Thames estuary option cannot proceed then allowing the expansion of Gatwick makes better sense than cramming ever more flights into Heathrow."

Labour London Assembly Member Val Shawcross commented on hearing the news: "Boris Johnson has long known that an estuary airport option was simply not viable, but has ploughed on regardless and wasted more than £5m of taxpayer money pursuing this pie-in-the-sky vanity project.

“If anything, Londoners now deserve an apology from their Mayor. He has wasted valuable public money promoting an estuary airport to raise his profile, when the expert evidence all along suggested the idea was environmentally and financially doomed."

Mike Clarke the RSPB’s Chief Executive welcomed the news saying the Thames Estuary would have been a 'disastrous' place to put an airport as it supported thousands of wintering birds and other wildlife. He added that he hoped this decision would draw a line under any similar proposals.

Commenting on today’s announcement he said: “We have always said that the Thames Estuary is a disastrous place to put an airport. It supports many thousands of wintering birds and other wildlife.

Heathrow's chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: "We have always agreed with the mayor that Britain needs a successful hub airport to compete in the global race for jobs and growth. Heathrow is now the only hub left in the race."

A decision on a third runway will not be taken for at least a year. The next Government will assess the findings of the Airports Commission, to be released in summer 2015, before deciding what to do.

September 2, 2014