Daniel Moylan has conceded that the Mayor of London’s plans to build a new hub airport on the Isle of Grain in north Kent, or on an artificial island in the outer Thames Estuary, are vulnerable if Sir Howard, the chairman of the Government’s airports commission, decides to limit the number of options for further investigation.
The commission is expected to publish a short list of proposals on where and how to build new runway capacity in the South East on December 17.
Commissioners received 58 proposals in response to a consultation and Sir Howard has pledged to whittle down the options to just a “handful” before he delivers his recommendations after the general election in 2015.
Many of the proposals are not deemed serious contenders, such as designs for a futuristic “drive-through” airport. But Sir Howard is also under pressure to rule out some of the more realistic options, which include a new hub in the Thames Estuary, a third runway at Heathrow, expansion at Stansted and a second airstrip at Gatwick.
Mr Moylan, the mayor’s chief adviser on aviation, has conceded that if Sir Howard decides to reject some of the leading proposals, a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary is most likely to be dismissed. “I think the option that is most at risk, being frank, is a new airport in the estuary,” he told a group of airport representatives last month.
“If something is going to be ruled out, I think Davies is likely to rule that out rather than anything else,” he said at the event organised by Insight Public Affairs.
Sir Howard may, however, appease advocates of a new hub airport to replace Heathrow by shortlisting Stansted, Mr Moylan said.
The mayor has also put forward suggestions to transform Stansted “out of all recognition” into a new four-runway hub and advocated closing Heathrow and transforming it into a new London borough with up to 80,000 new homes.
Stansted’s owner, Manchester Airports Group, has said that “developing capacity at a number of airports is likely to be best for passengers”.
This week a jobs report from three councils in the Heathrow area, Hounslow, Slough and Ealing, will spell out the dangers of shutting Heathrow. The airport claims that the 76,600 people it directly employs would be made redundant overnight under Mr Johnson’s plan.
The council report is likely to put the figure far higher, with one aviation source saying the findings were “devastating”.
A source close to the three councils said: “This report is the first comprehensive analysis of Heathrow’s economic impact. It reveals that the loss of jobs in the area has been hugely underestimated. This report throws down the gauntlet to policymakers. It shows that their decisions will have a huge impact on thousands of families.”
Mr Moylan told The Telegraph that Mr Johnson remains convinced it is “absolutely necessary” that both Stansted and the Isle of Grain should feature on the commission’s short list.
“If the estuary proposals are eliminated then it is incumbent on the Airports Commission and ministers to come clean with Londoners and the public about whether they can really contemplate inflicting the misery of an expanded Heathrow on a million people or developing Gatwick into a four-runway hub airport.
“Trying to shoehorn a major airport into a site half the size of Paris Charles de Gaulle would hamstring Britain in the global race and pretending that we may not need a hub airport, but could instead carry on spreading our runways around the South East, would fly in the face of all the evidence from our competitors overseas.”