Report for Airports Commission on environmental impact sinks Boris’s estuary airport plans
Boris Johnson’s dreams of a massive airport in the Thames Estuary have had a major setback, from the new report produced for the Airports Commission, looking at the environmental impacts. The study shows it would cause huge environmental, financial and safety risks and would cause “large scale direct habitat loss” to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. The cost of creating replacement habitats could exceed £2 billion and may not even be possible. Even if replacement habitat could be found, planes using the airport would still be at a “high risk” of lethal bird strike. In order to counter this risk, even larger areas of habitat would need to be destroyed to secure the airport. The report also found huge regulatory hurdles to any potential estuary airport going ahead. Under environmental regulations,the airport’s backers would have to prove there were “imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI)” for placing the airport in such an environmentally sensitive area. Even if that could be proven, they would also need to demonstrate that all of the habitat displaced by the airport could be placed elsewhere. The report found that while this was “technically possible,” it was highly uncertain, as such a large scale displacement had never been attempted before.
Airports Commission sink Boris Johnson’s estuary airport plans
By Adam Bienkov
8 July 2014 (Politics.co.uk)
Migrating birds in the Thames Estuary would cause a “high risk” of bird strike.
Boris Johnson’s dreams of moving Heathrow airport to the Thames Estuary took a major setback today after an investigation found it would cause huge environmental, financial and safety risks.
A study for the Airports Commission found that a new estuary airport on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent, would cause “large scale direct habitat loss” to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds.
The cost of creating replacement habitats could exceed £2 billion and may not even be possible, the report found.
Even if replacement habitat could be found, planes using the airport would still be at a “high risk” of lethal bird strike.
In order to counter this risk, even larger areas of habitat would need to be destroyed to secure the airport.
Johnson was today urged to abandon the project.
“The Airport’s Commission has confirmed what a costly environmental disaster the mayor’s Thames Estuary Airport represents,” Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson said.
“The Mayor needs to abandon this ill-conceived project.”
The report also found huge regulatory hurdles to any potential estuary airport going ahead.
Under environmental regulations, backers of the airport would first need to prove that there were “imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI)” for placing the airport in such an environmentally sensitive area.
Even if that could be proven, they would also need to demonstrate that all of the habitat displaced by the airport could be placed elsewhere.
The report found that while this was “technically possible,” it was highly uncertain, as such a large scale displacement had never been attempted before.
“It is technically possible but the scale of the required compensation is unprecedented to date and there is a high level of uncertainty given that the full requirement is yet to be understood,” they found.
They also found that any attempt to create new habitats nearby would leave the airport vulnerable to bird strike, leaving great uncertainty about any alternative sites being found.
The report found that the airport would also cause new flood risks and leave the infrastructure vulnerable to the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.
The findings are the latest blow to Johnson’s hopes of persuading the government of his case for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.
The mayor has spent more than six years and tens of millions of pounds in pushing the case for the airport.
Despite this, the Airports Commission chairman Howard Davies failed to include the plans on his shortlist of options for expanding airport capacity last year.
Davies did submit the plans for further investigation by the commission however, following heavy lobbying from City Hall.
The commission’s latest report is unlikely to persuade David Cameron of the case for an estuary airport.
Experts have put the final cost of a new airport in the Estuary at around £50 billion, far more than alternative schemes.
The prime minister is believed to favour either expanding existing airports at Heathrow or Gatwick instead, but has put off any decision until after the general election next year.
Thames Estuary airport wildlife move ‘would cost £2bn’
8 July 2014 (BBC)
Experts predict it could cost up to £2bn to provide alternative habitats for wildlife if a proposed Thames Estuary airport is built.
An estuary airport on the Isle of Grain has been proposed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The report published by the Airports Commission said it would “radically and irreversibly” change the landscape, which is “noted for its remoteness”.
The report said impact studies lasting many years would be needed.
Medway Council and Kent County Council opposed building an airport on the Isle of Grain
The environmental impacts study said an airport development was likely to result in “adverse effects” on international nature conservation sites, including the Thames Estuary Marshes special protection area.
The report said: “An airport would need to demonstrate that there are no feasible alternatives.
“A large area of compensation habitat creation would be required and this would be on a scale unprecedented for any single development in Europe.”
Based on other projects, the estimated cost would be between £70,0000 and £100,000 per hectare, the study found. This would result in a cost of between £149m and £2bn, if the airport was to be built.
Impression of the proposed Norman Foster Thames estuary airport
Areas on the east coast in Essex and Suffolk could be considered, but there was a “high level of uncertainty” they would be suitable.
“Further extensive studies would be needed over a large area and over many years,” the report said.
The proposals have faced opposition from councillors and MPs in Kent and Medway.
Rehman Chishti, Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, said: “This new report confirms everything that we in Medway have been saying – the local authority, the residents – that the idea of having an airport in the estuary will have huge environmental implications for the South East and also for the area locally, and is unsustainable.”
Val Shawcross, the Labour spokeswoman in the London Assembly, said: “The idea of a Thames Estuary airport has long been dead in the water, but if a final nail in the coffin was needed, this is surely it.
“Boris [Johnson] has wasted millions of pounds on this vanity project.
“With this latest report in mind, he needs to accept that the evidence is now totally against him and that no more public money should be spent pursuing a Thames Estuary airport.”
The Green Party called for a reduction in air traffic rather than building a new airport.
Darren Johnson, a Green Party member on the London Assembly, said: “The Airport’s Commission has confirmed what a costly environmental disaster the mayor’s Thames Estuary airport represents.
“The mayor needs to abandon this ill-conceived project.”
But Daniel Moylan, the mayor of London’s chief advisor on aviation, said: “Few large scale infrastructure projects avoid significant costs for environmental considerations, but our estimate is that the cost of providing new habitat would be £500m, a quarter of that quoted by the Airports Commission.
“More importantly, their report confirms that every environmental objection can be answered, every obstacle can be overcome and there is nothing in the evidence published that should prevent the estuary option being shortlisted in September.
“Couple that with an estimated £7bn of economic benefit every year, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would result from moving Heathrow to the Thames Estuary, and the Airports Commission can have no alternative but to include the estuary option on its formal shortlist.”
The report is the first of four due to be published this week, looking into different aspects of the feasibility of a Thames Estuary airport.
Airports Commission publishes “Environmental Impacts” report on Thames Estuary airport, for comment
The Airports Commission has undertaken to commission studies to assess whether a Thames Estuary airport should be short-listed, with the 3 schemes (Heathrow airport, Heathrow Hub, and Gatwick airport) to Phase 2 – for detailed consideration. These studies would be published in July, and accordingly, now the first study has been produced. It is on Environmental Impacts, and it was carried out by Jacobs Consultancy. The report is and is over 200 pages long, and appears to be thorough. It is clear that the extent of the environmental damage done by an airport would be huge, and the mitigation measures needed would be on a scale not seen before in Europe, if such mitigation was possible. It also stresses that, to allow this degree of environmental harm, “the Secretary of State for Transport would need to be certain that no alternative solutions existed, had considered the best scientific knowledge and taken into account the representations of Natural England and Environment Agency. If this test is passed it would need to be demonstrated that the proposals were needed for Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public interest (IROPI).” The Commission invites comment on whether the report contains errors, or if anything has been omitted, by 8th August.