A new display chronicling a previous attempt to tackle London’s air capacity shortage by building an airport in the Thames Estuary has opened at the Museum of London Docklands.
Mayor Boris Johnson has long championed the construction of an Estuary airport as an alternative to further expansion at Heathrow.
However the Mayor’s scheme has so far failed to win Government approval and is heavily opposed by local politicians, airlines and environmental campaigners,
The Museum’s new display shows that the idea is far from new – 40 years ago Ted Heath’s Government proposed an ambitious project at Maplin Sands in Essex.
That scheme would have involved creating a vast man-made expanse of reclaimed land to support four runways and a seaport. Mr Heath championed the project through Parliament and test land reclamation got underway but, as with the Mayor’s scheme, there was strong opposition.
Exhibits include a specially commissioned map which plots the Estuary airport story graphically alongside key infrastructure, proposed sites, and nature reserves.
Georgina Young, senior curator of contemporary history at the Museum, says: “The Maplin Sands proposal shows many parallels to the current debate about an estuary airport. Limited airport capacity is a recurring problem.
“Even in the 1960s, when civil aviation traffic was modest compared to today, the indications were that Heathrow and Gatwick would not be able to cope with increasing demand. Today, Heathrow and Gatwick are reaching their boundaries again.”
“Maplin also shows that an Estuary airport is not a novel solution. The plans presented today are said to be revolutionary and ground breaking, but Maplin engineers and planners really believed that they could fulfil a similar ambition in the 1970s. Maplin is almost a blueprint for the current initiatives.”
The exhibition closes on Sunday 27 October.
For details visit museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands