Airship port or medieval village? The plans for Heathrow's redevelopment that Boris has commissioned


If Boris Johnson gets his way, and Heathrow is bulldozed and a vast new airport is built in the Thames Estuary, then what could all the freed-up land south-west of London be used for?

Yes, we know it’s unlikely, but that hasn’t stopped Transport for London from commissioning three architectural firms to let their imaginations run riot with proposals for the site.

According to TfL, the plans could potentially support 90,000 new jobs, provide homes for up to 190,000 people and add £7.5bn to the UK economy. Not too shabby.

Boris Johnson said: “The demand for new homes and jobs in the capital is such that we must be ready to start redeveloping Heathrow the moment it moves to its new site. And the sooner we start planning the better.”

So here is a preview of what may be on offer if, against all the odds, Boris can persuade the Airports Commission that extending Heathrow Airport is a mistake, that a new airport can successfully be built, and that Heathrow can stop functioning as a world air-hub.

1. HawkinsBrown – An airship and drone city

Heathrow Hawkinsbrown

HawkinsBrown says it is taking inspiration from crop rotation land management techniques in its ideas for “a green belt in a green belt”, with a long strip of parkland. In addition it would like to see the UK’s first airship port, a “factory for homes” allowing people to design their own houses, and a tram system. It also adds that drones “delivering small parcels” could be “part of an integrated future”.

2. Maccreanor Lavington – Bioremediation and coppicing

Heathrow Maccreanor Lavington

Maccreanor Lavington says it wants to create a “fully functional city within the metropolis”. Its plans include foresting parts of the former airport, and creating a new technology campus. Meanwhile, the old hard-standing (the runways and roads) would be broken up to provide material for building. The plans also include cleaning contaminated ground through “bioremediation” and the planting of trees, which would then provide biomass and employment through coppicing. The plans add that the current Terminal 2 building could become a retail hub.

3. Rick Mather Architects – “A medieval core of a town”

Heathrow Rick Mather

Meanwhile, Rick Mather Architects would base its plans around Heathrow’s old runways, which would “define the structure of the city” but also adds that “the central area is conceived as similar to a medieval core of a town, where the historic geometries underpin the complex weave of existing buildings.”


So, which will it be? Drones, airships and trams; forests, tech campus and coppicing jobs; or medieval town with runways? It’s all to play for.

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