Boris Johnson is paying architects £90,000 to draw up plans for new homes on the site of Heathrow airport despite there being no plans to demolish it and City Hall having no control over its future.
The Mayor wants to replace the airport with a new airport in the Thames Estuary in Kent, however his plans lack the support of the UK Government, which controls aviation policy, and many major airlines.
They’re also opposed by local Kent politicians, residents and campaigners who say the proposed airport would damage the local ecology and environment.
Last year the Government’s airport commission recommended further expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick airports to increase the UK’s air capacity.
All parties at City Hall oppose increasing capacity at Heathrow, although only the Conservatives back the Mayor’s Thames Estuary option.
Despite the lack of control over aviation policy and absence of any backing for his scheme, the Mayor has instructed Transport for London to draw up proposals for increasing runway capacity.
On Thursday his office announced three architect firms has been appointed by TfL to produce designs for redeveloping the Heathrow site “if a new hub airport to the east of London was eventually agreed by the Government.”
A spokesman for the Mayor confirmed that each would be paid £30,000 for their work.
Boris ramps up his Heathrow demolition plans, appointing architects for new scheme
London Mayor Boris Johnson really does not like Heathrow. In the past he has described plans for expansion at the west London airport as “completely crackers”, and “totally wrong for the country”.
This was followed by the revelation that the Mayor wants to axe the country’s largest airport entirely, seeking to replace it with an “education quarter” that would employ up to 100,000 people.
Now, the scheme has evolved to encompass a new “Heathrow City” proposal, with plans for homes, jobs, retail outlets, manufacturing facilities, and office developments.
According to the Mayor’s office, the site could provide up to 90,000 jobs, 190,000 new homes and could generate £7.5bn a year for London and the UK.
But could the Mayor’s Sim City vision become reality?
The Mayor’s Office and TfL have taken the first serious steps in realising the dream and have appointed three leading architects to draw up plans for a full redevelopment of Heathrow.
According to a statement from the Mayor’s Office, “Transport for London has asked the architects to provide designs that cover several options for redevelopment of a site that could potentially support 90,000 new jobs and provide homes for 190,000 people.”
Of course, the plans all hinge on a full relocation of London’s busiest airport to a completely new location, east of London. This scheme has received a largely unenthusiastic response and was not shortlisted by the airports commission as a viable option for dealing with London’s airport capacity problem.
Instead, expansions of Heathrow and/or Gatwick were shortlisted in December as more viable options.
Johnson responded furiously, saying: “Why on earth entrench a huge planning error and expand Heathrow and consign future generations to misery when we could go for the right option?
“As soon as you’ve completed a third runway, which wouldn’t be until 2030 at the very earliest, there will be insatiable demands for a fourth runway.”
Labour has said that the Mayor’s vision would “wreck west London’s economy”, while opposition groups warned of the environmental impact a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary may have.
The three firms appointed to look at redeveloping the Heathrow siteS are: Hawkins\Brown, Rick Mather Architects and Maccreanor Lavington.
The Mayor of London’s chief advisor on aviation Daniel Moylan said: “The relocation of Heathrow Airport is a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide a world class aviation environment to the east of London while creating thousands of new homes and jobs in west London.
“We have now appointed innovative creative practices and look forward to them bringing forward designs that will very clearly demonstrate the quite incredible opportunities in front of us.”
Cost of promoting Estuary airport to cost Londoners double
31 Mar 2014 (ITV)
The cost to London council taxpayers of promoting the controversial “Boris Island” airport scheme is to almost double to £5m. The mayor is set to increase the current £3m budget to allow his officials to continue making the case for an estuary airport. The scheme for a new international hub airport on the Isle of Grain in Kent failed to make the shortlist announced by the government’s Airports Commission in December. Additional runways at either Heathrow or Gatwick emerged as the favourites but commission chairman Sir Howard Davies agreed to take a second look at Boris Island. Boris Johnson said the idea was still alive after it was “plucked from the waste paper bin.” He told ITV News: “Failure is not something we are currently contemplating” London Assembly Labour member Dr Onkar Sahota accused the mayor of wasting Londoners’ money. “This is a pie in the sky idea which no one wants”, he said.
FoI request reveals TfL has spent £1.4 million so far, with a budget of £3 million, on promoting Thames estuary airport (or Stansted)