The Airports Commission has rejected proposals for a new island airport in the Thames Estuary, strongly backed by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Johnson has described the decision as “myopic.”
The proposal for a four-runway, brand new airport was submitted in response to the government’s plan to increase airport capacity by 2030 with the hope of being added to a shortlist of options for runway expansion in south-east England.
The airport would have been built on the Isle of Grain in Kent, operated 24 hours a day and have initial capacity for 100 million passengers per year.
The plans were ruled out after “serious doubts” about the delivery and operation were raised. The scheme was considered by the Airports Commission as being too economically disruptive, with many environmental hurdles which may prove impossible or very time-consuming to overcome.
Airports Commission Chair, Sir Howard Davies, said of the rejection: “We are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs.
“While we recognise that need for a hub airport, we believe this should be part of an effective system of competing airports to meet the needs of a widely spread and diverse marker like London’s.
The cost of the scheme heavily influenced the decision to reject. Whilst the least ambitious version of the island scheme would cost £70bn to £90bn, this is significantly more than the £30bn to £60bn total of other available options.
Boris Johnson has expressed his disappointment of the decision but said he will continue with the plans and remains confident they will eventually come to fruition. Despite the Commission’s announcement, he remains adamant that the island airport plans were not finished.
Gatwick and Heathrow Airports have both released revised proposals for expansion plans to build the UK’s next runway.
The Commission is due to make its final report to the ministers in summer 2015, after the general election.