Airports Commission now consulting on Thames estuary airport options – deadlines 14th February and 23rd May
On 16th January the Airports Commission published its consultations on Thames estuary airport options. It did not short-list an estuary option, in its interim report on 17th December. Now there will be a first consultation, ending on 14th February on four options in the inner estuary. The Commission are asking for comments on its current position on the proposed terms of reference, especially if they contain gaps or weaknesses and whether other specific analyses need to be undertaken. There will be a second deadline date, ending on 23rd May, on an inner Thames proposal in which respondents are invited to submit analysis, evidence, and additional research or comments. The Commission says this will give sufficient time to ensure that appropriate evidence can be considered to inform the final study outputs before the studies are concluded and published. The Commission says it “expects to procure expert assistance from consultants in environmental appraisal and technical support; in the provision of engineering, airport operations and logistics consultancy and in the provision of economic modelling, commercial and financial appraisal.” Presumably at public expense (the Commission has a budget of £20.35 million over 4 years, from DfT). “The Commission expects to be in a position to publish many of the study outputs by July 2014, to ensure that any further evidence from interested parties is taken into account before a decision is made in September.” Final public consultation on the schemes starts in October.
PDF, 80.3KB, 12 pages
This publication sets out the Commission’s current position on taking forward additional feasibility and impacts work for an inner Thames Estuary airport proposal.
It invites comments on the draft terms of reference for the 4 research studies which the Airports Commission will be taking forward.
Related inner Thames Estuary documents
- Inner Thames Estuary feasibility studies: call for evidence, 16 January 2014 (this is the same document as mentioned above – 2 consultations out of one document).
- Responses to the Commission by email to:email@example.com
Airports Commission website https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/airports-commission
The Commission document
Introductory Note: Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility Studies
1. The purpose of this introductory note is to set out the Commission’s current position on taking forward additional feasibility and impacts work for an inner Thames Estuary proposal. It also fulfils the twin purpose of:
• inviting comments on the draft terms of reference for the four research studies it
will be progressing; and,
• opening a call for evidence to inform the study outputs.
2. The Commission published its Interim Report on 17 December 2013 setting out the three short-listed schemes to be taken forward for detailed development work, for national consultation this autumn.
3. The proposals received by the Commission for a new hub airport in or around the
Thames Estuary were both imaginative and ambitious.
4. The notion of a once-in-a-century decision to build a new hub airport that would significantly reduce the impacts of aircraft flying into and out of London, especially for the many thousands of people affected by noise around Heathrow, is compelling.
5. In addition, supporting the shift of London’s economic centre of gravity eastwards to allow for further expected population growth, combined with a major redevelopment opportunity of the Heathrow site, are potentially attractive prospects, and could have major impacts on the economic geography of the South East.
6. There are, however, significant challenges and risks associated with an inner
Thames Estuary proposal – for example, the Estuary has many areas of protected
habitat and flood risk and is some 33 miles from central London with no direct
surface access links in place.
7. Therefore, while no proposal for an Estuary airport has presented a sufficiently
powerful case for it to be currently recommended as a credible option, the
Commission was unable to reach a firm conclusion on an inner Thames Estuary
option (see paragraphs 6.24-6.46 of the Interim Report). 5 Introductory note
8. The Commission has recognised that, given the magnitude and complexity of a
scheme of this kind, further research would be of significant value to understand
better the feasibility and impacts of a new hub airport. The lack of evidence in
some key areas was also recognised by a number of interested parties in their
submissions to the Commission.
9. Over the coming months, the Commission is, therefore, proposing to take forward
four studies to address the significant risks and challenges associated with a
scheme of this magnitude and complexity.
10. It is also inviting evidence from interested parties, and commits to engaging with
them in a consultative manner, to inform the study outputs.
11. Following the completed studies and evidence-gathering, the Commission will
then decide whether a new hub airport proposal in the inner Thames Estuary is a
credible option to be taken forward for further detailed development work or not.
The Commission expects to make this decision by September 2014.
12. If the proposal is considered to be credible, it will go forward to the same level of
detailed development as the short-listed proposals and be consulted upon nationally.
Feasibility studies and draft terms of reference
13. As set out in the Interim Report, the Commission has already assessed that
the most viable options for a new hub airport are located in the inner Thames
Estuary and not the outer Thames Estuary. The Commission will, therefore, only
be taking forward further feasibility and impacts work in respect of the inner
Thames Estuary locations.
14. The Isle of Grain option examined by the Commission in its Interim Report
incorporated elements from several inner Thames Estuary proposals (as described
in paragraph 6.25 of the Interim Report and paragraph 5.4 of Appendix 2 of the
Interim Report). It is proposed, therefore, that the studies referred to below may
consider alternative inner Estuary locations in assessing the feasibility and impacts
of a new hub airport. This will enable consideration of the range of impacts which
could materially affect the location and design of such a new airport.
15. The Commission’s current position on the draft terms of reference for the four study
areas can be found in the Annex to this note, and are outlined briefly below in
• Environmental impacts – assessment of the impacts on the Natura 2000 sites,
coastal system, habitats and species affected and historical and archaeological sites, in constructing and operating a new airport and identifying whether the legal tests could be met.
• Operational feasibility and attitudes about moving to a new airport –
assessment of key potential operational issues and potential mitigation, including
meteorological and wildlife impacts, the SS Montgomery and relocating energy
facilities; assessing airline, airport, business and industry attitudes to the decision
to move operations to a new hub airport, and to then moving operations.
• Socio-economic impacts – assessment of the local, sub-national and national
economic and social benefits and impacts of building a new hub airport in the
inner Thames Estuary, closing down Heathrow and London City airports, and
redeveloping the Heathrow site.
• Surface access impacts – assessment of the operational, cost and
environmental impacts of any surface transport proposals required to support a
new hub airport, as well as impacts on existing and planned local and strategic
16. The Commission is now inviting views and comments on its current position on
the proposed terms of reference (as set out in the Annex hereto). Comments
are invited by no later than 14 February 2014, to inform the project initiation
documents. Please send any comments on the draft terms of reference for the four
studies to firstname.lastname@example.org.
17. The Commission is particularly interested to hear whether there are any gaps or
weaknesses in its current position on the draft terms of reference, and whether
there is any specific analysis that will be appropriate to consider in undertaking
18. The Commission expects to procure expert assistance from consultants in
environmental appraisal and technical support; in the provision of engineering,
airport operations and logistics consultancy and in the provision of economic
modelling, commercial and financial appraisal. Much analysis has already been
undertaken in Phase 1, and the Expert Advisory Panel will continue to help the
Commission to access, interpret and understand evidence for the studies, as well
as to make judgements about its relevance and potential application.
19. The Commission expects to be in a position to publish many of the study outputs
by July 2014, to ensure that any further evidence from interested parties is taken
into account before a decision is made in September. Figure 1 of this document
sets out how the decision making process for this work is expected to proceed.
The call for evidence
20. The Commission commits to engaging with interested parties in a consultative
manner in order to ensure that high-quality, well thought-out study outcomes
21. In addition to welcoming views on the draft terms of reference for each of the
studies, the Commission is now opening a call for evidence from interested parties,
in order to inform the study outputs.
22. Interested parties are welcome to submit analysis, evidence, additional
research or comments in relation to an inner Thames Estuary proposal to the
Commission by Friday 23 May 2014. This will give sufficient time to ensure that
appropriate evidence can be considered to inform the final study outputs before
the studies are concluded and published.
Please send evidence to
23. If you are interested in submitting work, please do not hesitate to get in touch about
the type of analysis and evidence which could best inform the study outputs.
24. The Commission will not be considering new or refreshed scheme proposals on the
Estuary, but will assess the credibility of an Inner Estuary option with particular focus
on the distinct study areas set out in the Annex. Therefore, the Commission invites
analysis and evidence relating specifically to the finalised study terms of reference,
where it has concluded that additional analysis will be of value in reaching its
decision on whether the Inner Estuary option can be regarded as a credible option.