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NEWS Last modified on March 31, 2014

Boris Johnson outlines vision if Heathrow was closed and new Estuary Airport built

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, outlined his vision today of a future without Heathrow Airport and development of a state-of-the-art new Estuary Airport.

Flanked by his aviation advisor, Daniel Moylan, he presented a report at Hillingdon Council, entitled Heathrow: Redevelopment Scenarios.

Johnson says he wants an ‘open, honest, and evidence based debate’ on how the Heathrow site can ‘best serve London in the 21st century’.

The report was based on closure of the world’s third busiest airport in 2030, a new town being built on the site, and a four-runway Estuary Airport constructed on the Isle of Grain in Kent.

Johnson says: “This report is about clearing away the smoke screen put up by people whose loyalty is to their shareholders, not to Londoners, and prompting a genuine, honest discussion about what London could achieve in a world post Heathrow.”

Options he says for the Heathrow site, post closure, include the creation of a new education and technology quarter creating 100,000 jobs.

The second is a new town providing 48,000 homes for 112,000 people, and creating 76,000 jobs.

The third is a residential quarter, on the scale of Hammersmith or Fulham or Kensington and Chelsea, with 82,000 homes for 200,000 people.

The mayor’s report says the most likely scenario for redevelopment of the site, which is nearly the size of Kensington and Chelsea, will be a combination of all three options, to provide the ‘opportunity for strong levels of job creation and housing growth’.

A further fourth ’Heathrow City’ scenario was also detailed, and the report claims 80,000 homes and 90,000 jobs could be created.

The report concludes that if Heathrow Airport is closed, and redeveloped into a town, it could potentially support 90,000 jobs and provide homes for 190,000 people by 2030.

Johnson told media and Hillingdon Council councillors, he is backing closure of Heathrow and the building of a new hub, as there are two barriers to economic growth and prosperity in London – a rising population and the lack of aviation capacity in the South East.

Johnson explains in his view, as Heathrow is limited by development due to capacity, the UK is losing out on business and passenger traffic to Amsterdam Schiphol, Frankfurt, and Paris CDG airports.

“UK business is losing the ability to compete with the growth markets in Asia and Latin America. It is a long-term problem and we need to solve it now,” he adds.

And Johnson says building a new runway at Heathrow is not the ‘right answer’ and in his opinion it would also lead to a fourth runway being built sometime in the future.

“In my judgement, it is not going to happen anyway (a runway at Heathrow) as it is not politically deliverable.

“People will stop it when they realise the impact, and the answer is to be bold and look at what other countries have done (like Hong Kong) and move the hub airport.

“We could build a 24-hour, four-runway airport on one of the Estuary sites, that would allow us to get on with competing with Schiphol and Paris CDG, and galvanise the Thames Gateway area, and allow our businesses to compete,” Johnson adds.

Commission chairman, Sir Howard Davies, previously explained in his view, the ambitious Thames Estuary Airport development would cost from £20-100 billion (€24-120 billion, but the mayor says the £100 billion mark suggested was way off the mark.

The commission is set to make a decision in the autumn, on whether to add the airport proposal on the Isle of Grain to the short-list.

The list currently includes three options, two for new runway suggestions at Heathrow, and a second runway at Gatwick.

The mayor says he will be speaking to the Airports Commission soon, about what option is in the best interests of London.

And he was positive the Estuary plan may make the short-list, as Sir Howard, ‘recognises the huge regeneration possibilities’ that exist with moving the hub.

And the mayor says irrespective of the commission’s decision, he will be continuing ‘the fight’ for a new hub airport in the South East, and it will always be his solution to expanding capacity.

The mayor also explains he is against a new runway being built at Gatwick, as thinks London needs one main hub, as opposed to a two-hub system.

Johnson says: “The money seems to be going on Gatwick, but I do not think that is the long-term solution that London needs – in having a dual hub solution.

“Me and my TFL team are sceptical, as we think another runway at Gatwick does not solve the capacity issue.

“What it would not deliver is a long-term hub capacity. And we are not ever going to have three or four runways at Gatwick.

“The advantage of the four-runway Estuary Airport, is that we would have the space to expand further, to five or six runways.”

Johnson and his aviation advisor also gave their assurances that airlines and passengers would be happy to move from Heathrow to the Estuary Airport in Kent, as say it will improve facilities and give them more space and opportunities.

His advisor Moylan, also says there is no reason why the owner of Heathrow, Heathrow Airport Holdings cannot simply relocate, and be part of the Estuary Airport development project.

Mayor Johnson concluded by declaring ‘no to a third runway at Heathrow’ and that London needs to expand capacity in the South East where the highest ‘economic growth yield’ is.

Hillingdon Council, which is against a new runway being built at Heathrow, also released a report at the briefing based on similar ideas to the mayor, and outlined two possible options if it is closed.

There option A assumes the airport is closed completely, and a ‘Heathrow Park’ town, with 45,000 new homes for 98,483 people is built.

Option B features construction of a new West London Airport on the site, operating as a regional airport, and the building of a Heathrow Park town alongside it.

The Airports Commission are set to give a response shortly on the three options it has short-listed to expand airport capacity in the South East, before give its final recommendations to the UK government after next year’s general election.

A Heathrow spokesperson says the mayor's plans would be 'devastating' and adds: "The Mayor of London is proposing to spend billions of pounds of public money to forcibly buy and then close Heathrow, immediately putting 114,000 people out of work.

"He would do this to build an expensive new hub airport at a further cost of £112 billion to the taxpayer.  The economic impacts of this at both a national and regional level would be devastating.”

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