A leading architect’s bold plan for a four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary has received a mixed reception.
Lord Foster unveiled a plan for an airport capable of handling 150 million passengers a year on the Isle of Grain in Kent, which would have high-speed rail links to London, as well as northern England, the Midlands and continental Europe.
The plans for the airport, dubbed the Thames Hub, also outline possible links to shipping ports such as Tilbury in Essex and Felixstowe in Suffolk.
The Government has ruled out expanding London’s Heathrow and other existing airports in the South East, prompting the British Chambers of Commerce to raise fears the country could miss out on economic growth and jobs.
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Lord Foster’s plan for the Thames Hub is a rival to Boris Johnson’s own idea of a Thames Estuary airport, but a spokesman from the mayor of London’s office offered support for the architect’s plan.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “The mayor is delighted that a distinguished figure like Lord Foster agrees that the answer to Britain’s aviation needs lie in the (Thames) estuary. This idea is taking off and rightly so because Britain’s economic future relies on strengthening our ability to connect with the great growth economies of the globe.”
However, the plan has been rubbished by Medway Council in Kent, which said Lord Foster’s proposed site was one of the worst places for anyone to construct a new airport. Councillor Rodney Chambers, the leader of the council, said: “This plan is, quite possibly, the daftest in a long list of pie in the sky schemes that have been put forward for an airport.”
In the plans, Lord Foster points out that the Thames Hub would be located in the most sparsely populated areas of the Thames Estuary. The airport’s four runways would each be 2.5 miles long, while the airport could operate around the clock because the approach of the plans from the north east would mostly be over water.
The potential new airport could have more international routes than Frankfurt and Paris, while Indian, Chinese and Latin American carriers would be able to fly from the UK.
However, Mr Chambers remains opposed to the plan. He said: “We have looked at Lord Foster’s plan and he appears to want to place his fantasy Isle of Grain airport on top of the liquefied natural gas plant and a power station. It beggars belief. I can only assume he has not actually left his offices and travelled from London to Medway to have a look before releasing this (plan).”