The Government is to hold a formal consultation on proposals by Mayor of London Boris Johnson to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
The Mayor has advocated the scheme since coming to office in 2008 and recently warned that Britain faces “economic paralysis” unless ministers back his proposals.
The Thames Estuary is outside City Hall’s area of control and the Mayor lacks the power or finance to build an airport, necessitating Government support if the scheme is to go-ahead.
The proposal faces stiff opposition from local politicians of all parties and environmental campaigners.
In November Both Medway Council and Kent County Council launched a new email campaign opposing the building of a new airport.
Medway Council Leader Rodney Chambers has previously said “our campaign against a Thames Estuary airport will continue until [the Mayor] finally drops his pie in the sky plan.”
There is also opposition from groups representing Londoners affected by aircraft flights.
John Stewart, Chair of HACAN East, which represents residents under the London City and Heathrow flight paths, says: “There are real concerns in East and South East London that aircraft from Heathrow would simply be replaced by aircraft from a Thames Estuary airport.”
Calling for an open minded approach to aviation policy, Baroness Jo Valentine, head of business lobbyists London First, warned in November: “The danger must be that a strategy for London’s international links will run aground on the sandbanks of Boris island – a distant and laudable long-term vision that allows the most difficult medium term decisions to be passed down to the next generation of politicians.”
Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at the London Assembly, dismissed the consultation as “an initiative by Conservative Ministers to give credibility to Boris Johnson’s discredited idea of a Thames Estuary airport ahead of May’s elections.”
Pidgeon added: “This idea remains a fantasy proposal from a Mayor who should be focussing on London transport.”
Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, who represents Chatham & Aylesford, used Twitter to brand the consultation “a tedious, unnecessary, expensive waste of taxpayer money.”
Green Party Assembly Member Darren Johnson said: “The idea of an airport in the Thames Estuary has many problems, including the environmental impact on the ecologically sensitive estuary, the threat of bird strike, the impact on local communities, and the distance from London that people would have to travel to use the airport.
“If we were to end unnecessary flights to short haul destinations, space would be freed up for essential long haul flights and there would be no need to build another airport.”
Labour’s Ken Livingstone said: “An airport in the Thames threatens a huge increase in noise, congestion and pollution for millions of people in the east and south east of London, especially Bromley, Bexley, Havering and Barking. It also threatens hundreds of thousands of the jobs in West London who rely on Heathrow.
“Rather than spending millions on an airport in the Thames, Boris Johnson should be putting more police on the streets and ending his huge bus, tube and train fare increases.”
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “A new airport in the Thames estuary would have a devastating impact on local communities and the environment – and all for pie-in-the sky economics that simply don’t add up.
“David Cameron’s pledge to lead the greenest Government ever will ring hollow if he gives the green light to a huge expansion in air travel.”