22 September 2008

Could This Be Boris' White Elephant ? I Hope Not.

In the 1960s and 1970s there were many conversations about developing a so called London's 3rd Airport. Ultimately Stansted was developed at a time when in fact there were 3 already (they kinda forgot about Luton). The controversy over developing LHR (a 3rd Runway) or LGW (a second Runway) has raged long and hard. In reality it will probably be another 10 years or so before we get any form of change.

The proposal for LHR's 3rd runway has been floated for many years but recently received some added attention. Now of course it may be too late. Demolishing homes is not a politically smart thing to do. Even if a 3rd runway is added - the layout of LHR would be hard pressed to deal with a true 50% increase in traffic potential. What to do?

Boris Johnson, the erudite new Mayor of London, wants to look at a different alternative altogether. His idea is to revive the Maplin Sands/Foulness idea. In 1969 the then Wilson government proposed several sites but only one was a coastal site. I remember well the protest from the local people where my family lived to make sure it didn't come to Nuthampsted. The Roskill Commission was charged with evaluating it. Voila end result was Stansted started its development 20 years later.

Boris wants to build a 4 runways on the water where it is only 10 feet deep with landfill, expanding it to 6 runways if necessary later. His idea merits a lot of attention.

Let's start with the fact there is no good answer to the problem. London needs an decent airport. The current "third world" edifice that is LHR is a disgrace and just plain bad in terms of how an airport should be. The impact of the environment is actually worse keeping it. The lack of planning by successive UK Governments has now come back to haunt the current administration (if Gordon Brown survives). A Conservative Majority at the next election could easily be given a mandate for change. This is one of those key changes that is required.

So there is no point in arguing about it. Developing the site and delivering it would take about 6 years AFTER final approval. Since in the UK that will take at LEAST 4 years - I believe that this should start now and in earnest.

The economic and environmental benefits far outweigh all the negatives. Imagine if you will an airport powered in a large part by low cost wave energy in a location that reduces its environmental impact. The Southeast of England would have new land available for development on the old LHR site. it would open up a corridor to the east of London and benefit the country as a whole.

And your problem with this is what?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My problem is geography! This proposes putting the country's major airport in about as inconvenient a location as possible for the vast majority of the population. Our notorious inability to build infrastructure - meaning the upgrading of the entire M25 so that everyone to the west of London (ie almost everyone in southern England) can reach it; a REAL cross London rail link so we don't all have to change trains several times to reach it... means that even were it built it would add a day to the journey getting there.
hmmm,,,,, but maybe that would mean that my (and other) convenient, small, efficient regional airport (<30 mins from landing to walking into the house) would look towards those interesting hubs CDG and AMS and part of the LHR problem would be solved by removing some of the traffic to them?
Of course extending LHR and moving people to do it is very unpaletable...... omlets and eggs?