Cliffe Airport plan being promoted, again, by John Olsen

Ten years ago, proposals for a 3 runway, 24-hour, hub airport at Cliffe, on the south bank of the Thames estuary, on the Hoo peninsula, were rejected.  It was abandoned in December 2003 on the grounds that the costs of the coastal site were too high and the airport would not be well used. But this scheme, put forward by John Olsen with what he calls his “Independent Aviation Advisory Group” seems unwilling to go away. He was pushing it again back in 2011, and has again given evidence to the Transport Select committee recently, promoting it.  Mr Olsen was the commercial director of Cathay Pacific and ex-head of the failed airline Dan-Air, and wants an airport based on the one in Hong Kong.  He wants the Airports Commission to look again at his Cliffe proposals, with claims about the Thames Gateway regeneration project, and the creation of thousands of jobs to deprived areas in north Kent and south Essex. He says the Cliffe project would prevent “malnourished and ill-educated children growing up” and he would build all sorts of good things for the local communitym including swimming pools, running tracks and a velodrome….



Interview with the man behind the new Cliffe Airport, John Olsen

28.2.2013 (Kent online)

Former Cathay Pacific executive John Olsen gives evidence to the Transport Select Committee

John Olsen gives evidence to the Transport Select Committee

by Alan McGuinness

Ten years ago, champagne corks popped as campaigners cheered the demise of Cliffe Airport.

Now the plan for Europe’s biggest airport is back – and we have spoken in-depth to the man behind it.

Ambitious John Olsen claims he can cure many of the ills he has diagnosed as afflicting the area – low educational standards, high unemployment and people emigrating.

“Do you want malnourished and ill-educated children growing up?” – John Olsen

The head of the Independent Aviation Advisory Group [seems to just be a group he has set up to promote the Cliffe idea, has no website etc] is a former executive at the airline Cathay Pacific.

He lived in Hong Kong for 28 years and said he wants to take the “experience” of the airport there and bring it to Kent.

He said Cliffe village would not disappear under his proposal and no one would lose their home.

He would build a range of facilities around the airport for the local community, including swimming pools, running tracks and a velodrome. The airport would be built on 4,500 acres, take just under a decade to build and cost £12bn. It would be powered by geothermal, solar and tide energy.

Up to 35,000 jobs would be created. Transport links would be extended and Gravesend would become a “rail and road hub” for the airport.

Hong Kong, known as Chek Lap Kok, was rated as the third best airport in the world last year. He insisted his group simply wants what is best for the area and the country’s aviation industry.

Anti-airport campaigners Joan Darwell, Gill Moore and George Crozer at St Helen's Church, Cliffe

Campaigners Joan Darwell, Gill Moore and George Crozer

Mr Olsen said: “I’m a huge supporter of the environment. I don’t want people to think we’re just here to trample on them.”

Critics argue the public would end up footing a large proportion of the bill for the project. A report published last month said a Thames Estuary airport would not be commercially viable, and estimated a public subsidy of £10 to £30bn would be needed to get it off the ground.

Supporters – Mr Olsen included – claim private investors will be more than happy to stump up the cash. Mr Olsen told a House of Commons Transport Select Committee he had already had discussions with one investor about the Cliffe proposal.

He said: “It’s amazing what can be done to enhance a community at practically no cost to that community. The great thing about an airport is that people of all denominations and social status work together to get the job done.

“Do you want malnourished and ill-educated children growing up? Here is a project that will really help these people.

“The politicians have been watching 40 years of collapse in Medway. Are they going to wake up and see something needs to be done?”

[The full interview with Mr Olsen is part of a 16-page special report in tomorrow’s Medway Messenger.]

Our comprehensive guide includes what the public are itching to know about jobs, house prices, the politics and how the system works.

There are also interviews with die-hard campaigners who have fought the plans since day one (pictured above).






From the Aviation Environment Federation:

Lobby group tries to resurrect airport at Cliffe

Jan 4 2011

An ‘independent’ lobby group is trying to resurrect the idea of a new London airport at Cliffe in Kent. This option was rejected in 2003 in the government’s airports White Paper. Article from the Financial Times follow.

Bob Sherwood, London and South-East Correspondent, 27 Dec 2010.

Calls for Kent airport given fresh wings

The chaos at London airports in the run-up to Christmas has proved that the capital needs a modern hub, according to a group of former aviation industry executives who are attempting to resurrect a plan for an airport at Cliffe, in north Kent.

An independent aviation advisory group, led by John Olsen, former commercial director of Cathay Pacific and ex-head of the failed airline Dan-Air, is urging the government to look again at proposals for a £14bn three-runway, 24-hour-a-day hub airport on the Hoo peninsula.

They claim recent infrastructure developments – such as the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link from St Pancras through north Kent and the development of London Gateway, the deep-sea container port and Europe’s largest logistics park being built just across the Thames – now make a more compelling case for the airport. In addition, the scheme would provide a catalyst to unlock the stalled Thames Gateway regeneration project, bringing thousands of jobs to deprived areas in north Kent and south Essex.

The Cliffe airport plan is a scheme that refuses to die. Identified as the best potential site for a new airport by the Labour government in 2002, the proposal was abandoned in December 2003 on the grounds that the costs of the coastal site were too high and the airport would not be well used.

The decision was welcomed by local residents in the village of Cliffe and beyond in the Medway area as well as by environmental campaigners, who claimed the salt marshes of the Hoo peninsula were an important bird habitat.

But Mr Olsen’s group, which has spent three years researching the project, believes those arguments are no longer valid and that the project would be far more practical and cheaper than London mayor Boris Johnson’s idea of an island airport in the Thames estuary.

Mr Olsen told the Financial Times: “I think Boris is right that we need a new airport in the UK, but he’s got the wrong location.

An independent group believes there is a compelling case for an airport in Cliffe. Environmentalists disagree

“This is not just a way of drastically improving aviation in the UK. It’s part of a much bigger plan of regeneration in the Thames Gateway area. And with the high-speed rail link, it’s already better connected than Heathrow. This is all about using what we’ve got already.”

Daniel Moylan, deputy chairman of Transport for London who is working on a review of airport capacity for the mayor, recently called on the government to include a “new hub airport” serving London and the south-east in its new national aviation policy.

But gaining traction with a government that has opposed airport expansion for a scheme with the political baggage of the Cliffe proposal will be difficult.

Already local MPs, council leaders and environmental campaigners have lined up to attack the plan.

Nevertheless, Mr Olsen said the almost uninhabited salt marshes of the Hoo peninsula had so many advantages that the site could not be ignored.

“It’s the best piece of undeveloped land anywhere near any major city in Europe,” he said.

The group claims the bird populations on the peninsula’s west and north are “meagre” and that the risk of bird strike is lower than at other locations.

The group also believes the plan is economically viable because the government already owns much of the land; it would be far cheaper than an island scheme, which has attracted estimates of £40bn; and one of the sovereign wealth funds from the Gulf would be keen to fund the scheme on a lease of up to 100 years.

Mr Olsen denied any financial involvement in the plan.

”We have not been paid a penny and we have not asked anyone to pay us,” he said.





In 2002 the government identified a site at Cliffe on the Hoo Peninsula in North Kent as the leading contender among potential sites for a new airport for London. The proposal was for up to four runways arranged in two east-west close parallel pairs, with a possible fifth runway on a different alignment, which might be used only at night and in particular weather conditions. In December 2003 the government decided against the Cliffe proposal on the grounds that the costs of a coastal site were too high, and there was a significant risk that the airport would not be well used.

Mr Olsen claims his plan is the “only viable project”. He has slammed architect Lord Foster’s £50billion bid to build an airport on the Isle of Grain, as well as Mr Johnson’s idea of a Thames estuary hub.

Mr Olsen’s airport would handle up to 100million passengers a year. The 600-acre site – already owned by the Government through the Port of London Authority – is only 30 miles from central London. The M2 and M25 are nearby and the High Speed 1 rail link to St Pancras is about six miles away. He insists no public money would be spent on the project, and that there have been talks with potential backers from the Middle East and Far East.


The airport, or ‘hub’, will be 5 runways – over twice the size of Heathrow with its 2 runways. This proposal will destroy hundreds of acres of ecologically important marshland, watercourses and natural habitats for thousands of birds and other rare species. They plan to move up to 300,000 birds 30 miles up the coast to Reculver – after they have thrown many more people out of their homes and spent £350 million to make that area suitable! Apart from destroying the Marshes that have lain undeveloped since time began, at least 1800 homes will be demolished, totally obliterating 2 villages, throwing several thousand people out of their homes. As time goes on this will take another 4 whole communities, schools, churches etc. and equate to nearer 7000 homes.

The area has its own micro-climate, thick sea-mists descend in moments and hang around for hours, and gale force winds are common. They can’t move the weather 30 miles up the coast!

63% of the proposal are is designated floodplain. Covering this with concrete will greatly increase flooding in the surrounding areas (the most densely populated area of the south-east outside of London) and would increase flooding up river at Yalding, Maidstone and other areas that are already in a severe flood risk area.

As well as increasing pollution and traffic for miles around, thousands more houses will be built in surrounding towns/green belt to house the 80,000 workers who will have to come into the area (only 2,000 unemployed in Medway, 19,000 in the whole of Kent) and the people thrown out to make way for the airport, (that’s in addition to the 250,000 extra houses the government say Kent must build!), leading to more stress on already overloaded local services, plus aircraft noise/pollution for hundreds of thousands of people in Kent/Essex for the first time – unlike those who chose to live around established airports who expect the noise, we’ll have no choice!

The whole of the Isle of Grain plus parts of Medway and Gravesham will become a huge airport service area, swathes of countryside will become motorway – there is currently just one ‘main’ road, small and very dangerous, onto the Isle so motorway links are planned for Gravesend, Strood and Gillingham areas, plus a new bridge over the Thames to connect to Essex and the massive container port being planned there. Part of the Thames on the Essex side is to be reclaimed to build the container port, with compensation for this scheme supposedly on the Kent side. BUT, the airport will be eating into the area, reducing drastically the amount of the compensation.