Boris Johnson’s vision for an airport in the Thames Estuary will move a step closer to reality when a formal consultation is held into the plans, it has been reported.
The mayor of London has repeatedly called for a new facility to be built, partly on reclaimed land, in the South East, prompting many to refer to it as ‘Boris Island’. Reports suggest that in March the government is set to announce a formal consultation into the controversial plans.
Prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne have warmed to the idea after a number of business leaders called for London’s aviation links to be improved to compete with the likes of Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid.
Any further expansion of Heathrow had previously been ruled out by Cameron, while Osborne refused to dismiss the possibility of a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary in his Autumn Statement.
Cameron is thought to be supportive of Johnson’s alternative to an expansion of Heathrow, but will wait until the consultation has reached its conclusion before making a decision, the BBC reported. The coalition has already ruled out a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.
The consultation will be seen as a major step forward by Johnson, who has reportedly seen ministers become more keen on the idea after holding talks.
Calls for a new airport to serve London have been driven by passenger demand, which is expected to rise from 140 million passengers a year in 2010 to 400 million passengers a year by 2050, according to a report from the Greater London Authority.
The constrictions of Heathrow are becoming “ever more apparent and ever more damaging”, Johnson has said, despite concerns being raised over the damage a new hub could do to the environment.
‘Boris Island’ has been labelled “undeliverable, unaffordable and unnecessary”, by Kent County Council, Medway Council and the RSPB.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Johnson said: “I think that where we are is that the government is increasingly interested in this idea.
“I genuinely believe that they see not just the overwhelming aviation argument and the argument from international competitiveness in making sure that Britain has a hub airport that is viable for the long-term future. I also think the government understands the massive regeneration potential of this project.”
He added: “You can’t go on expecting Britain to compete with France and Germany and other European countries when we simply can’t supply the flights to these growth destinations – China, Latin America. We are now being left badly behind.”