‘Boris Island’ airport rejection a ‘huge missed opportunity’ for Essex - Bernard Jenkin
The spurning of the “Boris Island” Thames Estuary airport plan is a “huge missed opportunity” for Essex, Bernard Jenkin has said, as he fired a warning shot that it was not the end of the story.
The Harwich and North Essex MP reacted with fury to the Government-appointed Airports Commission’s decision to reject the four-runway estuary scheme, which leaves Sir Howard Davies with three shortlisted schemes - two involving expansion at Heathrow Airport in west London and the other for a new runway at Gatwick in West Sussex.
Mr Jenkin said: “We are now going back to the same old patch and mend policy that has failed in the past. One new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick will not provide enough capacity or a viable hub able to compete effectively with hub airports in Europe. It is also a failed opportunity to lead the comprehensive regeneration of the Thames Gateway.”
But Essex County Council leader David Finch welcomed the move, saying: “I am pleased that Sir Howard Davies has finally ruled out the Boris Island plan which has always been pie in the sky. The Government needs to focus on delivering sensible growth at airports like Stansted and Southend, while investing in the Heathrow hub we know the UK economy needs.”
The estuary scheme was ruled out after the commission said the proposal had “substantial disadvantages that collectively outweigh its potential benefits”.
Sir Howard said: “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 the need for a hub airport, we believe this should be a part of an effective system of competing airports to meet the needs of a widely spread and diverse market like London’s.”
The Heathrow and Gatwick options had been shortlisted by the commission last December, with Sir Howard announcing that further studies would be made on the estuary plan with a decision towards the end of 2014.
Sir Howard, the former head of the Financial Services Commission, said: “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.”
He went on: “Even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost £70 to £90 billion with much greater public expenditure involved than in other options - probably some £30 to £60 billion in total.
“There will be those who argue that the commission lacks ambition and imagination. We are ambitious for the right solution. The need for additional capacity is urgent. We need to focus on solutions which are deliverable, affordable, and set the right balance for the future of aviation in the UK.”
The commission is due to make its final report to ministers in summer 2015 - after the general election.