Airports Commission: Interim Report

 

So now that the Airports Commission has refused to “Sink Boris Island” the fight must go on. OK that’s not strictly true. The Boris Island idea of an airport on an island in the middle of the Thames Estuary is now off the cards, however the commission have refused to rule out a new four runway airport on the Isle of Grain. The Isle of Grain airport (which shall henceforth be known as “Boris Island” because it was one of the original ideas supported by Boris and is on an Island) is favoured by Boris because it would:-

A) cut down the noise and air pollution for the nice people of Windsor and West London and their little darlings at Eton (11 miles from the end of the runway at Heathrow that would need to be closed at huge public expense) and move that pollution to the Isle of Grain and Sheppey where the poor people of Sheerness (2 miles from the end of the proposed runway), Medway and the surrounding areas would have to suffer ever increasing levels of pollution as the planes get larger and larger and the density of unrestricted 24/7 flights increases.

B) Provide a huge opportunity for redevelopment at the closed Heathrow site that rich developers, architects and other friends of Boris could cash-in on to make huge sums of money on the highly valuable West London land all of which would have to be paid for out of public money as part of the compensation that would have to be paid to BAA (the private company that owns Heathrow) for the closure of the Airport (who says this government doesn’t support British business?)

 

What is unfathomable about the commissions’ report is that despite the fact that (in the commissions own words):-

 there is potentially a very large cost; for the airport itself, the new surfaceaccess requirements and upgrades to existing networks”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“these costs do not include any requirements for buying and closing Heathrow and the resulting infrastructure necessary to making the Heathrow site attractive to investors”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“the redevelopment of the Heathrow site would take many years to complete reducing the financial benefit of buying Heathrow and developing the site”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“the incremental costs of this option are much greater than extending an existing airport.”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“the airport would impact on two Special Areas of Protection (SPA) and two Ramsar Sites”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“in addition there may also be environmental impacts associated with any required surface access infrastructure, which have not been assessed”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“it appears unlikely that a project with the level of capital investment required, without an existing RAB, could go forward without some form of significant government subsidy”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“the requirement for new roads to connect the airport to existing roadways and the need to expand those connected roadways would be substantial”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“there would also need to be major improvements in terms of new and existing railways. A new high speed line into central London splitting to two stations of St Pancras (via HS1 line) and Waterloo/Canary Wharf/London Bridge (via a new tunnel under Central London) as well as an extension to Crossrail, would be expensive”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“this option would require the closure of Heathrow for commercial reasons and London City for airspace reasons”

 

and despite the fact that:-

“the closure of Heathrow has potential for immediate adverse effects on employment in the area”

 

what is unfathomable is that despite all of that the commission did not dismiss the the idea out of hand but instead the “Commission intends to carry out further analysis of the feasibility and impacts of an Isle of Grain airport and reach a decision in the second half of 2014” it’s almost as if someone was slipping something into the back pocket of Howard Davies (the head of the commission).

So the fight must go on, at least for another year until a decision is made in 2014. Even then I suspect there will be much to be done because even if the commission rules out the the idea of an Isle of Grain airport it would not be the first time that a government dismissed out of hand the findings of a government commission especially if there is an election in the offing, as there will be in 2015, and a large part of your electorate stand to be adversely impacted by your aviation policy.

 

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