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Airports Commission dismisses Thames estuary airport plans, angers mayor of London

Out-Law News | 02 Sep 2014 | 3:44 pm | 1 min. read

A commission set up by the UK government to consider how to maintain the UK's status as a global aviation hub has dismissed a proposal for a new four-runway airport in the Thames estuary, prompting an angry reaction from mayor of London Boris Johnson.

In a statement released today, the Airports Commission confirmed that it would not be adding the proposal, for an airport on the Isle of Grain in Kent, to its shortlist of options for providing an additional runway in the south east of England by 2030, after concluding that "the proposal has substantial disadvantages that collectively outweigh its potential benefits".

"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," said Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies in the statement. "There are serious doubts about the delivery and operation of a very large hub airport in the estuary. The economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount."

The decision means that only proposals to create an additional runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick airports will now be considered by the Commission, with the Commission estimating that such plans will involve public expenditure of £30 to £60 billion less than the rejected proposal.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who had strongly backed the Thames estuary plans, reacted angrily to the news. Johnson branded the Commission's process "pretty much irrelevant", claiming that its assessment of the relative costs of each proposal was "wildly inaccurate", that a new airport to the east of London was the "only credible solution" and that he was "absolutely certain that it is the option that will eventually be chosen".

According to a BBC report, Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate and Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye both welcomed the Commission's decision.

"Britain's choice is clear," said Wingate, "expand Gatwick and support genuine competition, lower fares and greater choice for passengers or expand Heathrow and return to the state monopoly of the past and watch the cost of going on holiday, travelling for business and exporting goods and service go up."

"We have always agreed with the mayor that Britain needs a successful hub airport to compete in the global race for jobs and growth," said Holland-Kaye. "Heathrow is now the only hub left in the race. We would like to work with the mayor to deliver Heathrow expansion in a way that benefits the whole country while reducing noise impacts for local people compared to today."

The Commission said that it expects to publish its appraisal of the shortlisted proposals in the autumn.