'Boris Island' Plan Rejected As Not Viable

Third runway at Heathrow now looks most likely option

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'Boris Island' - Picture: Foster and Partners

Third Runway to "Blight Lives"


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

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.”

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.

Cllr Amrit Mann, deputy leader for Hounslow Council, said: “We, like most people, thought Boris Island was a flight of fancy and now that it has been sunk, Heathrow won’t have to close. This makes many of the tens of thousands of jobs reliant on the airport more secure in the long term.“We’re proud to have Heathrow on our doorstep and want to see it prosper. But we want a better not bigger Heathrow."

The Council say they will continue to lobby for protection from airport noise and better public transport links with the airport.

Labour's candidate for the next general election, cllr Ruth Cadbury said: "It's a relief that the Aviation Commission has rejected Boris's mad Estuary Airport plan - which would have destroyed the economy of West London & beyond. So now it's back to the fight against Runway 3, which would mean 50,000 additional people living in a seriously noisy environment under the new flight-path, the halving of respite for those under the current flight paths, more traffic congestion, and more air pollution in an area already breaching EU air quality standards.

"Heathrow Airport Ltd's threats on the local economy if R3 doesn't go ahead are just plain silly. Heathrow is and always will be the UK's premier airport so no-one working there will lose their job if R3 doesn't get the green light. We're not exactly crying out for volume increases in new jobs as our unemployment rate is low compared to the rest of the UK."

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