THAMES ESTUARY AIRPORT: WHERE IS IT GOING?

It was disappointing that Doug Oakervee wasn’t able to attend the London Assembly’s Environment Committee meeting on the 11th of March to defend Boris Johnson’s proposal to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary. Having undertaken to do this many months earlier, Doug Oakervee informed us of his withdrawal at the last moment by the rather odd means of a letter from his employers, informing me that “Mr Oakervee is unlikely to be available to your committee for some months to come”.

Doug Oakervee’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for defending the estuary airport proposal in front of the Environment Committee is perhaps unsurprising. It is clear that there is no business case for it; there isn’t enough room for it anyway in the Thames estuary; and according to the Feasibility Review prepared by Oakervee, if it’s to happen it needs to start this summer.

Now judging by Medway Council’s survey, many of the airlines won’t go there and more importantly the regular users of airports in London won’t be going there either according to the GLA Economics Report, Come Fly with Me. So the Mayor is pushing an airport that will attract neither airlines nor passengers. And the members of the Estuary Airport Steering Group set up by the Mayor are expecting Boris to put up possibly a further £5 million to fund a full review via the LDA (see the minutes of their meeting in December).

As for where the airport would be located in the estuary, that’s the £40 billion question. The coastlines along Essex and Kent are designated conservation sites under EU law and a sanctuary for bird life. We also have very busy shipping lanes in which traffic can only increase with new ports being built. And finally we have wind farms being built there like the London Array. The map above well illustrates that reality (click on it to see a larger image). So it’s not surprising the Feasibility Review doesn’t even attempt to answer that one.

The one thing the Feasibility Review appears to be very clear about is that work on the Thames Estuary Development Study needs to start no later than the summer of 2010. Now given the long term unavailability of Doug Oakvervee because of his pursuit of other commercial interests in the Far East, we can safely say he won’t be around to bury the plan once and for all for Boris.