Another one! Fourth 4-runway Thames estuary hub airport proposal unveiled – Goodwin Sands off Deal

Plans to build a 24-hour £39bn hub airport on large sandbanks off the Kent coast have been unveiled. Engineering firm Beckett Rankine wants to construct a four-runway airport on reclaimed land at Goodwin Sands near Deal. Director Tim Beckett said it was the “most sustainable solution” to aviation expansion in the South East and would have the “least adverse impact”. The Goodwin Sands are a series of shifting sandbanks, owned by the Crown Estate, 11 miles long and six miles wide, that are also the site of historic shipwrecks. Beckett Rankine said the location does not have the environmental and logistical issues that came with proposals for an airport in the Thames Estuary. It said the site would be linked to London by the existing HS1 high-speed rail line, the A2 and M20 and to Europe via the Eurostar service. It is not far from Manston, which cannot function properly due to being in the wrong place. Just too far east. This 4th scheme joins the Foster scheme  (Hoo Peninsula); the Gensler schems (floating somewhere in the middle); and the Boris Island  scheme (off Whitstable).


For a reminder of the other 3 schemes, see below

and there are links to the websites of previous schemes at link



Goodwin Sands lines up as new hub airport

19 December, 2012 (New Civil Engineer)


Marine engineering specialist consultant Beckett Rankine this week set out a new multi-billion pound vision for a high capacity hub airport on the Goodwin Sands 3km off the east Kent coast at Deal.



Bright future: The platform would be large enough to add a fourth runway and second terminal building with room to expand further with up to six runways

The first £39.2bn stage of the three phase so-called “hub for Northern Europe” plan would see a new three runway airport built with dedicated high speed rail, road and ferry links, which would provide capacity for 150M passengers a year.

Depending on demand, the airport could be extended in future to first four runways then six or more, with 24 hour a day take-off and landing made possible by its offshore location.

“We have concluded that putting a four runway hub airport on land in the Southeast is not politically deliverable,” said Beckett Rankine director Tim Beckett, pointing out that any long term aviation strategy had to be “honest about what it means to Heathrow”. Goodwin Sands lines up transport

“There are two options – either Heathrow doubles its number of runways or Heathrow closes as a hub,” he added. “I can’t see any middle way if you are truly building for the next 30 years.”

Having already been given a thumbs up in principle by both the National Air Traffic Agency  (sic. Presumably means NATS) and the London mayor’s office, Beckett said the scheme was a very credible alternative to runway development at Heathrow but also to existing plans for a new airport hub in the Thames Estuary.


Potential advantages of a hub for Northern Europe

“It really comes down to a single question – where is the best place for a four runway airport in the Southeast,” said Beckett Rankine director Tim Beckett. “I believe that this is the only sensible place to put a new airport.”

  • Space for more than four runways
  • Take-off and landing over water, enabling unrestricted 24 hour operations
  • No impact on environmentally protected sites
  • No interference with shipping lanes
  • No interference with wind farms
  • No demolition of houses or displacement of residents
  • High speed rail to London via existing HS1 in 40 minutes
  • Road links via A2 and M20
  • Direct Eurostar connections to Europe
  • Fast ferry connections to Dover and Ramsgate
  • Site owned by the Crown Estate
  • Creates thousands of jobs in economically deprived Thanet

“The mayor has welcomed the plan as a useful contribution to the debate,” he said.

The Goodwin Sands are around 3km off the east coast of Kent and, due to being around 3m below sea level so largely submerged, have been a major hazard to shipping for centuries.

The Beckett Rankine plan would impound an area of 25km square to create an airport platform. As is the case at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, this platform would be below sea level, reducing the volume of fill required and therefore the cost to construct the island. The first, three runway phase of development would feature a single terminal building with satellite units served by a new high speed rail link to the existing HS1 route, a road link and ferry terminal.

The platform would be constructed sufficiently large to enable a fourth runway and second terminal building to follow as demand grows.

Beckett maintains that the size of the Goodwin Sands site, which is owned and maintained by the Crown Estate, means that construction of further runways and terminals thereafter would not be hindered by space but would simply require further land reclamation.

Beckett said that the £39.2bn cost estimate for phase 1 was “as accurate as anyone can be at this stage”, and was backed by the firm’s own project experience and other recent transport project examples.

He added that, while the programme to construct such an ambitious project was largely dependent on planning timescales, the firm’s own recent experience on the Ras Laffan port in Qatar demonstrated that, technically, such a project could be built fast.

“Ras Laffan is roughly the same size and took two years to design and three years to build,” he explained. “Consent period is typically the sticking point, but the whole area is owned by the Crown Estate, and so the land acquisition should be easier. The Goodwin Sands are also outside any environmentally protected area and there is plenty of space.”

Beckett pointed out that, while moving the UK’s airport hub would of course have a major impact on employment in west London, businesses would have at least 10 years to prepare.

The boost to the economy of East Thanet, one of the most deprived parts of the Southeast, would, he said, be immense, and trigger much needed regeneration.

However, he did not entirely rule out maintaining Heathrow as a future airport facility.

“I don’t see us closing Heathrow, but once we have a new hub airport established I see it being downgraded to a size rather like City Airport,” said Beckett. “Heathrow cannot be a competitor. You only need one hub.”

“Heathrow’s location is in many ways an accident of history, and at some point we have to say that we made a mistake,” explained Beckett. “We need a long term solution that is expandable. This is a 30 year plan and we then should look to the next 50 or 60 years.”

Beckett said the next step was to present the plans to the ongoing independent aviation commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, to identify and report on options for maintaining the UK’s status as a global aviation hub.

“It is clear that Davies intends to come out with a long list of options in November 2013 that he will then bring down to a shortlist,” said Beckett. “We would like to be on that shortlist.”


The Goodwin Airport has its own website at  Goodwin Airport

Artist impression of Goodwin Sands airport

Artist’s impression image appears to show the runway pointing straight over Deal


The Goodwin Sands are a few miles off the coast of Deal, and run some 10 miles up the coast. The map indicates the area which would be massively impacted by an immense airport off the coast.


The Goodwin Sands is a 10-mile-long sand bank in the English Channel, lying six miles east off Deal in Kent.  The Brake Bank lying shorewards is part of the same geological unit. As the shoals lie close to major shipping channels, more than 2,000 ships are believed to have been wrecked upon it, and as a result it is marked by light vessels and buoys.

There is a map indicating the position of the sands at link 



19 December 2012  (BBC)

Fourth South East England hub airport proposal unveiled

Artist's impression of the Goodwin Sands airportBeckett Rankine said Goodwin Sands could support a four-runway airport
Plans to build a 24-hour £39bn hub airport on large sandbanks off the Kent coast have been unveiled.

Engineering firm Beckett Rankine wants to construct a four-runway airport on Goodwin Sands near Deal.

Director Tim Beckett said it was the “most sustainable solution” to aviation expansion in the South East and would have the “least adverse impact”.

The plan for the hub airport, the fourth proposed for the South East, is being opposed by environmentalists.

The Goodwin Sands are a series of shifting sandbanks, 11 miles long and six miles wide, that are also the site of historic shipwrecks.

‘Encouraging proposals’

Beckett Rankine said the location could support a 24-hour airport with four runways and did not have the environmental and logistical issues that came with proposals for an airport in the Thames Estuary.

It said the site would be linked to London by the existing HS1 high-speed rail line, the A2 and M20 and to Europe via the Eurostar service.

Mr Beckett said: “If the Davies Commission endorses the long-term requirement for a new, four-runway hub airport for London, then locating it at Goodwin will have the least adverse social and environmental impact of any option. It is certainly the most sustainable solution available.

Why are new airport proposals being pitched on a daily basis?”
Jamie Weir, CPRE

“Creating a new airport for London presents a major regenerative opportunity. We believe that East Kent is an area that could benefit most from the boost of new jobs and economic uplift.”

Daniel Moylan, aviation adviser to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, said: “The mayor has been encouraging proposals for a new airport to the east of London and this proposal is welcome as a contribution to a critical national debate and as a demonstration that a new airport is feasible and deliverable.”

But Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) spokesman Jamie Weir said: “Many South East airports such as Manston currently have plenty of runway capacity, so why are new airport proposals being pitched on a daily basis?

“The question of whether we actually need fresh capacity is the one which needs to be answered before we start looking for sites. This proposal, like all of those in the Thames Estuary, fails to even recognise this.

“We believe that the UK government must prove the need for additional capacity before anything like this is contemplated.”

Impression of Thames Hub from the east
Architect Norman Foster’s plan is one of three proposals for airports in the Thames Estuary

The government has asked a commission headed by Sir Howard Davies to advise on future UK airport capacity needs, with a full report due in the summer of 2015 – after the next general election.

Existing proposals for increased airport capacity in the South East have included the expansion of Gatwick and Heathrow and more use of regional airports.

There have also been three different plans to build airports in the Thames Estuary – a floating airport designed by architects Gensier, another plan known as Boris Island after it was backed by London mayor Boris Johnson, and proposals for a hub airport on the Isle of Grain designed by architect Norman Foster.

Willie Walsh, chief of International Airlines Group, which incorporates British Airways, has previously said the cost of building a hub airport off Kent would have to be recouped from charges, deterring operators from moving there.




Reminder about what airport schemes are now on the table for the Thames Estuary:

Boris Island airport details – off Whitstable. 5 runways, maybe 6. With potentially 3 landings and 3 takeoffs every 90 seconds

November 26, 2012     The Sunday Times reports that Boris has met Sir Howard Davies, to push his opposition to Heathrow expansion (and probably his idea of a massive Thames Estuary airport). This would be built in the sea, just off the coast of Whitstable and Herne bay, and have five runways – with the potential for a sixth. This airport could handle 150m-160m passengers a year – more than double the current size of Heathrow. They claim this airport could be built in 7 – 8 years, and it “would be able to handle 3 flights landing and 3 taking off simultaneously, growing to 4 each way if it is expanded to 6 runways. This would enable it to accommodate about 240 flights an hour.” (Has NATS been consulted??) The airport terminal would be at Ebbsfleet near Gravesend with tunnels for high speed rail links under the Thames (or perhaps overground) to the airport. The plans by Bridget Rosewell’s would cost an estimated £49bn, falling to £39.5bn if the railway goes partially overland. Appears to be just south of the 175+ wind turbine London Array.    Click here to view full story…



Floating runways scheme proposed for a Thames estuary airport – by Gensler

September 12, 2012     Another week. Another dotty airport scheme announced by the Standard. It reports that there are new plans for a floating airport in the Thames Estuary by a “major global architecture firm,” Gensler (from USA). Calling itself London Britannia Airport, it includes 4 floating runways tethered to the sea bed. Gensier says these could be floated in as required – allowing for future expansion to accommodate 6 runways, with several terminals on land, one in east London between Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park, and there would be high speed rail links. The Standard says Gensler have built airports elsewhere in the world, but it appears it is only now in the process of building terminals at Seoul and Denver airports. Mr Mulcahey from Gensler said: “It absolutely could be done. It’s all fairly standard technology and marine engineering is what we’re good at in Britain.” Heathrow would become an eco-city.   Click here to view full story…



Lord Foster unveils ambitious airport plans for Hoo Peninsula

A section of the Thames Estuary airport. Designed by Lord Foster.

2nd November 2011    Lord Foster has revealed ambitious plans for a multi-billion pounds transport hub connecting the UK’s main sea ports and creating a huge new airport in Kent. The Thames Hub plans bring together a new river barrier and crossing, a 4 runway international airport on the Hoo Peninsula, and a shipping and rail complex.Foster says it will “lay the foundations for the future prosperity of Britain” and “create jobs across the UK and boost the economies …” etc etc  Click here to view full story…

An aerial image of the Thames Hub airport, designed by Lord Foster.



Beckett Rankine

Their website says:

“Beckett Rankine is an engineering consultancy specialising in the planning, design and project management of marine infrastructure. Our team of dedicated and highly experienced engineers is passionate about delivering high quality and appropriate design solutions even in the most challenging environments. Many Beckett Rankinedesigns have been ground-breaking, such as planning the world’s largest man-made harbour at Ras Laffan in Qatar, the award winning Millbank Pier in London, and the highly innovative design of the Dockmaster pontoon range.

The firm has a long and proud history, and has been owned by the same two families since it was established in 1888.

Beckett Rankine carries out surveys, strategies, designs, masterplans, and project management for the following: ”

  • Jetties, Quays, and Piers
  • Marinas and Small Craft Facilities
  • Locks and Dock Gates
  • Port Development and Expansion
  • Terminal Improvements
  • Cargo and Passenger Handling
  • Dredging
  • Breakwaters
  • Coastal Defences
  • Floating Ports
  • Ro Ro Facilities
  • Container Handling
  • Dry and Liquid Bulk Berths
  • Fast Ferry Terminals

…. so not airports ……