Airport capacity: Boris Johnson announces three proposals

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Media captionBoris Johnson announces hub airport proposals

Three proposals have been announced by Mayor of London Boris Johnson to increase the UK's airport capacity.

Mr Johnson's plans include a four-runway hub on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary, previously dubbed Boris Island.

He also proposed a hub on the Isle of Grain in Kent or expanding Stansted Airport, but said developing Heathrow would be "crackers".

The plans will be submitted to the Davies aviation commission by 19 July.

Mr Johnson said that a new hub airport would be able to support more than 375,000 new jobs by 2050 and add £742bn to the value of goods and services produced in the UK.

He listed the benefits of each airport option as:

  • Thames Estuary: Artificial island would remove problems of noise pollution.
  • The Isle of Grain: Close enough to London to provide fast access by public transport, yet take-off and landing over water would reduce impact on as small a population as possible.
  • Stansted airport: Building on existing infrastructure at Stansted would have none of the environmental or wildlife issues that would need to be overcome in the estuary.

He also said his proposals would leave the land currently occupied by Heathrow Airport as an "opportunity" to create a new town for a population of about 250,000.

'Sheer lunacy'

Mr Johnson said: "Ambitious cities all over the world are already stealing a march on us and putting themselves in a position to eat London's breakfast, lunch and dinner by constructing mega airports.

"For London and the wider UK to remain competitive we have to build an airport capable of emulating that scale of growth."

But fears have previously been raised about closing Heathrow Airport and the impact it may have on jobs in the area if businesses relocated.

Deputy leader of Hounslow Council, Colin Ellar, said: "Closing Heathrow is sheer lunacy. Boris's plans to solve London's housing crisis and replace the thousands of jobs lost appears to be based on a wing and a prayer.

"We and many sensible commentators don't seriously think Boris Island, wherever it is in the estuary, will ever take off."

'Devastate' economy

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth said the Thames Estuary airport scheme was a "pie-in-the-sky plan" and the mayor should "stop pitching communities in west London against those in Essex and Kent and back transport solutions that don't wreck our planet".

Leader of Medway Council Rodney Chambers added: "Boris has failed to listen to the huge number of people who have said that placing an airport in North Kent, on or near the Thames Estuary, is a complete non-starter.

"There are no roads or rail lines there to support an airport that would carry up to 150 million passengers a year, and putting these in place would cost the taxpayer tens of billions of pounds - a needless waste of money."

He said to "force" an airport on Kent would lead to the closure of Heathrow and "devastate" the west London economy. And he added that to affect an environmental area, home to 300,000 migrating wildfowl, "simply beggars belief".

The Davies aviation commission, chaired by ex-Financial Services Authority boss Sir Howard Davies, will consider a number of options to maintain the country's status as an international hub for aviation and will report back in 2015.

Later this year, it will also recommend what improvements can be made to improve the use of existing runway capacity for the next five years.

A decision on whether to support any of the recommendations contained in the final report will be taken by the government.

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