Friday, 20 December 2013

Airports Commission sinks estuary option

Although a new four runway hub airport in the Thames Estuary has been ruled out, Sir Howard Davies, who heads the government-appointed Airports Commission, has left the door ajar for a development on the Isle of Grain, designed by Lord Foster.

The three options top of the Commission’s list to expand UK airport capacity, include:
· a new third runway at Heathrow
· lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow 
· a new runway at Gatwick

However the Commission also announced it would undertake further assessments of the Thames Estuary Airport against the other three options on the table and report next year. 

The announcement, eagerly awaited by aviation communities, has been greeted with widespread dismay. However, the report recognises the pressing need to make the most of currently under-utilised runway capacity, while new runways travel the undoubtedly laborious route through the planning process. 

While Davies proposed the Government bring forward policies to promote the benefits of smaller airports in London and the South East system, he did rule out large-scale expansion at Stansted, Luton and Birmingham. 

Davies determined that the Government did not have the levers to deliver Manston Airport’s proposal to act as a reliever airport, a model successfully adopted in New York. The management team at Manston Airport has said it will review the report and give it substantial consideration as it develops its future plan.

Importantly, the report also recommended that local authorities support the development of smaller local airports and the benefits they can bring to their respective economies alongside consideration of their environmental impacts. That bodes well for Manston, which never saw itself as a hub, and other airports in the South East.

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