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The debate: Will the Boris Island airport take off?

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The Boris bike, Boris bus and now the “Boris Island” airport – brand Boris is spreading like wildfire, but is everyone warming up to the mayor’s latest plans?

Maybe not. Wildlife charities have accused the mayor of environmental vandalism. Boris’ political opponents have dubbed the airport plans a calculated move to garner votes in the next elections. Airport watchdogs claim the new airport will risk the livelihood of 76,000 Heathrow employees.

And earlier today, when we reported that plans to build the “Boris Island” airport might get the go ahead, Will King, founder of King of Shaves, tweeted us saying: “Surely #BorisLand rather than Boris Island ;)”

But then again, Boris’ dream project of creating the world’s biggest airport in the Thames Estuary would supposedly put an end to London’s perennial airport capacity woes, encourage foreign direct investment, and create an avalanche of jobs.

So as the “Boris Island” airport saga continues, and a government consultation on the matter is announced, we asked London’s entrepreneurs and decision makers whether the Boris Island airport would take off or not.

YES: Boris Island airport is a good idea

John Griffin, chairman and founder, Addison Lee: “We’ve all borne the brunt of Heathrow’s minimal capacity”

“We’ve all borne the brunt of Heathrow’s minimal capacity so if Boris is planning to build another airport it should be nothing but good news to ears.

“Agreed, a lot of taxpayers’ money is at stake but the new airport would create so many jobs and help out the dithering economy.

“All of us Londoners make loud claims about the capital’s invincible ability to compete worldwide, so why put humps and bumps when Boris is addressing the issue of airport capacity. And of course, a new airport means foreign direct investment from countries such as Brazil and China.”

Peter Gordon, a former partner at private equity group 3i and co-founder of In-Deed Online: “We’ve always failed to plan far in advance for transport capacity, let’s not make the same mistake”

“UK and London’s competitiveness internationally depends on our having a modern air transport infrastructure which is both efficient and has ample capacity both now and into the future. It is incredible that we have managed to maintain our position as an international air transport hub with a former wartime airfield with massive capacity limitations.  

“One of the reasons we have an issue with much of our transport infrastructure (not confined to airports) is that we consistently fail to plan sufficiently far in advance of actual demand. If our planning for the future determines that a site in the Thames estuary is the best answer for a 21st century airport then lets get on with it.  

“My concern is around cost, I would love to insist that it be largely funded by private enterprise but I suspect that will not stack up. This means that the public purse will be called to contribute at a time when it can ill afford it – for those that complain about that, this is the price we pay for locating it in the sea where it will offend the minimum number of voters.”

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI): “The airport will ensure that London doesn’t fall further behind other international centres”

“The consultation is recognition that there is a desperate need for more airport capacity in the south east.  Any new airport will not become operational for decades yet the extra capacity will be required far sooner.  It is therefore important that solutions which can be put into place much faster, such as the third runway at Heathrow, are not ruled out to ensure that London doesn’t fall further behind other international centres.”

NO: Boris Island airport is a bad idea

Tim Webb, spokesperson, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: “The Boris Island is not smart growth, its stupid growth”

“Can there ever be a valid economic reason for environmental vandalism? The Boris Island is just a quick fix solution to create a few jobs with complete disregard for destroying a vital habitat for thousands of wetland birds.

“The Estuary is not a wasteland waiting to be developed for the benefit of London, it is a jewel in our natural crown and is only there as a result of years of campaigning from local residents and conservationists.

“There is substantial evidence in the white paper that the last government produced to conclude that the airport would be bad for business, bad for wildlife and bad for air safety. Then why is this government taking the risk of wasting the taxpayer’s money?

“The Boris Island is not smart growth, its stupid growth”

John Stewart, chairperson, Airport Watch: “Can we risk the jobs of 76,000 Heathrow employees?”

“I don’t understand the change of heart that David Cameron suddenly has,is it because the elections are not too far away and backing the mayor will garner him votes from West London?

“The government is fully aware of the obstacles if they were to push ahead with an estuary airport. First, how can we risk the jobs of 76,000 Heathrow employees? There is not the market for two international hub airports in the South East, according to the last study into the subject, carried out by the Department for Transport (DfT) in preparation for Labour’s 2003 aviation white paper.

“Secondly, a new four-runway airport would almost certainly rule out any chance of the government meeting its climate change targets.  It would only consider four-runway estuary airport, operating 24 hours a day since its only attraction is that is would provide at least double the capacity of Heathrow.

“Even if future generations of aircraft are cleaner, the implications of this for climate change are huge. If a third runway had been built, Heathrow would have become the biggest single emitter of CO2 in the country. The proposed estuary airport would send CO2 emissions soaring at a time when aviation is already the fastest-growing source of emissions in the UK.

“Thirdly the local impacts of an estuary airport would kill a well-renowned bird sanctuary- a designated area, a place protected by European statutes.”

Jean Leston, senior transport policy adviser, WWF-UK said: “Thames Estuary airport would be the single biggest source of carbon in the country”

“Air travel is the UK’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions. If we build a new runway or airport in the Southeast, we will be building the single biggest source of carbon in the country, at a time when we should be rapidly reducing our emissions.”

“Heathrow already offers far more flights to 20 of the world’s 27 top business destinations and more business routes than Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt combined. The aviation industry is trying to create national hysteria about a need for expansion when they should be looking at the facts: Heathrow’s doing just fine in terms of competitiveness and it won’t take a £50bn new airport completed
in the distant future to improve our connectivity.”

Whose side are you on? Leave your comments below to let us know




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