The Airports Commission, the independent group charged with planning the future of the London's airport infrastructure, has finally ruled out an ambitious plan for a major airport in the Thames Estuary designed by Foster + Partners and supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Chairman of the Airports Commission Sir Howard Davies said the proposal had been ruled out because "the economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount."
Instead, the Airports Commission will select between three options to expand one of London's existing airports at either Heathrow or Gatwick. Read on after the break for the reactions to the decision.
Mayor Boris Johnson was highly critical of the decision, saying: "In one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century.
"Gatwick is not a long term solution and 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."
Norman Foster was equally disappointed. "I predict that Londoners will be scathing in their condemnation of today’s announcement, when confronted with the inevitability of the blighting influence of Heathrow - the risks, noise and environmental impact of overflying London - and its inability to cope with predicted growth," he said. "They will ask why there was not even the courage to further explore – to study – to research - a strategic long term alternative to the instant gratification of a sadly predictable compromise."
Foster also commented: "Elsewhere in the world, relocating an airport that no longer serves its purpose is considered normal practice. France did it twice in a matter of decades. In Hong Kong we created a man-made island the size of Heathrow and built what was then the largest airport in the world – all in the space of six years. The pattern of the most competitive emerging economies is to replace the old and obsolescent and go boldly forward with the new, an opportunity today's decision denies this country."
Boris Johnson's support for the Thames Estuary scheme even extended as far as commissioning a series of proposals by Hawkins\Brown, Maccreanor Lavington and Rick Mather for the redevelopment of Heathrow Airport, envisaging what the site could be used for after the airport there was decommissioned.
However, despite the scheme's rejection, Johnson remains confident that it is still an option. With the final decision of the Airports Commission due next year after a general election, the BBC reports that Johnson believes "any future government would return to the Thames estuary plan," making the current commission "irrelevant".
See our past coverage of the Thames Estuary Airport, and related proposals:
Story via the BBC