Is this Londons next airport?

Is this Londons next airport?

Designed by internationally acclaimed British architect Norman Foster, the elegance of what could be London’s next airport is countered only by its nickname – ‘Boris Island’.

The support of London’s flamboyant Mayor Boris Johnson was enough to earn it the rather jokey moniker (reminiscent of a Bond villain’s lair), such are the politics surrounding the ?50 billion project that has sparked not only arguments about the future of air travel to the capital, but also the future shape of the entire UK economy.

It’s generally accepted by all those outside of environmentalist circles that London needs more air travel capacity if it is to maintain its place as a major airline “hub” for Europe. Smaller airports surrounding the capital, such as Luton and Stanstead, have expansion plans in place, but they are unlikely to satisfy the forecasts of growing global demands for air travel.

It’s also widely thought that Heathrow, with its position to the west of London, surrounded as it is by towns and villages, was never really in the ideal place to become the “world’s busiest airport” (this title is in some dispute with Atlanta and Hong Kong, though Heathrow does deal with more international passengers than any other airport in the world).

So the new airport fulfils lots of the criteria that others can’t. It’s positioned to the east of London, minimising the amount of people affected by flights as they come in over water, along the Thames Estuary. Indeed, it is likely to result in the closure of Heathrow, which affects more people with noise pollution than any other airport in Europe. It could carry double Heathrow’s 75 million passengers per year, reducing delays.

There’s no significant need to purchase land or demolish homes, as the airport will sit on its own man-made island in the Shivering Sands area, north east of Whitstable, Kent. High speed rail would take passengers quickly into London and beyond. The greater capacity of a new purpose-built airport could mean the UK could offer more routes to growing markets such as China. The design offers new flood protection to London, and tidal turbines offer a carbon-free energy supply.

But there are plenty who oppose the scheme, and not only from those who believe air travel is damaging to the environment. Opponents say breeding sites for protected birds will be disrupted, the area has several natural gas terminals nearby, and then there’s the small matter of the ?50 billion investment in these austere times (the UK Chancellor George Osborne this week visited China with proposals for the Chinese government to invest in British projects such as this).

But perhaps the biggest stumbling block the scheme faces is the small matter of the US warship the SS Montgomery. The ship sank in the area during World War II, and has explosives on board which add up to the equivalent of around 3,000 V1 bombs. No one has dared take on the job of moving the sunken warship, but it’s obvious that that particular nettle will be one of many that have to be grasped if ‘Boris Island’ really is to become a reality for the hundreds of millions of travellers that arrive and leave these shores each year…

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