London mayor Boris Johnson has labelled the Airports Commission as “myopic” and “irrelevant” after the organisation announced its decision not to add the inner Thames estuary airport, nicknamed ‘Boris Island’, to its shortlist options for increasing airport capacity.
The Airports Commission said it recognised the need for a hub airport but added that it is not convinced that a very large airport in the Thames estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs.
Airports Commission chair Sir Howard Davies 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.”
The other options put forward to the Airports Commission include the addition of an extra runway to Heathrow or Gatwick, which the London mayor claims do not offer long-term solutions. Johnson in particular blasted Heathrow’s plans, stating they are “barbaric”, citing the associated health issues locals would face because of increased pollution.
Speaking about the decision, Johnson said, “In one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century and consigned their work to the long list of vertically filed reports on aviation expansion that are gathering dust on a shelf in Whitehall.”
He added that Boris Island remained the only “credible solution” and that any process that fails to include it renders itself “pretty much irrelevant”. Johnson has conformed that he will continue to make a case for a new airport in the Thames estuary.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth has welcomed the decision to rule out the mayor’s plans. The organisation argues it could cause huge damage to wildlife, as well as increasing air and noise pollution.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates commented, “The overall business case for further expansion of our airports is just not convincing, as it is not compatible with meeting our climate targets.
“Increasing our reliance on air travel means increasing the risk of climate change – Boris should direct his energies into encouraging businesses to use video conferencing and new technologies, instead of building unnecessary new airports.”
However, supporters of expanding air capacity argue that the UK needs to build new routes to high-growth economies to create long-term sustainable growth for the economy. Business lobby group CBI is amongst those the support the development of a single hub airport.
Photo: Digo_Souza via Flickr