The Airports Commission today announced that it will not be taking forward the Thames Estuary airport option, advocated by Boris Johnson, in its deliberations about the future of airport capacity in the South East.
The Commission today produced a 46 page document outlining why the option would not be taken forward, available here.
A major reason for rejecting proposals for an estuary airport was the estimated local environmental impact, which according to a consultancy report produced for the Airports Commission, would be irreversible. The Isle of Grain proposal would have been built on an existing wetland habitat, which acts as a major breading area for wader birds, and is protected by EU legislation.
The required public investment for the project was also a prohibiting factor, with overall costs expected to spiral to above £100 billion and a significant proportion of which would have to be covered by the Government.
In reaction to the announcement, Shadow Transport Secretary, Mary Creagh MP, said “Time and public money should never have been spent on (this) vanity project“.
Environmental impacts of remaining options may be insurmountable
Sir Howard Davies was recently cited in a Financial Times article as saying that the likely environmental impacts of a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick would be “a very important dimension of the decision that the government might take” and noise nuisance was identified by Davies as the main attraction of proposals to replace Heathrow with an estuary airport.
A four runway Thames Estuary airport hub would have had major climate implications. But additional airport capacity at any of the other shortlisted runway options would lead to a similar increase in CO2 emissions, which as we have argued previously, would make the UK’s overall climate legislation impossible to meet unless airport capacity elsewhere in the UK was reduced to below today’s levels.
The remaining runway options would also have significant local environmental impacts including on noise and air quality. The Commission’s assessment framework considers these and other factors, but sets no meaningful and measurable noise objectives. It will ultimately be for the next Government to judge whether the noise nuisance and risk to legally binding air pollution standards (which are already being breached in the Heathrow area) are acceptable.
Image Credit: Paul Tomlin via Flickr