Boris Johnson has come under pressure to clarify whether he intends to push ahead with proposals to build an airport in the Thames Estuary after he last night appeared to backtrack on previous statements supporting the scheme.
On Thursday night the Mayor told BBC One’s Question Time “I don’t want to build an estuary in the, er, an airport in the Thames Estuary”, a position later ‘clarified’ by a City Hall statement stating:
“The mayor was referring to the fact that there are no actual plans in place to build an airport.
“However he believes the complex and critical decisions on Britain’s aviation future require mature exploration of every possible option.
“He has set up a steering group whose role is to oversee further study and research on issues in the estuary such as energy, flood management, transport, ecology and regeneration.
“Their research will be invaluable when deciding if a new airport there could meet London’s future needs.”
Proposals for the airport are opposed by local politicians, residents and environmental groups as well as airlines currently operating out of Heathrow.
In a statement issued after the Mayor’s television appearance Medway Council Leader Rodney Chambers said: “It would appear from what the Mayor said on Question Time that he may be backtracking on his airport plan for the Thames Estuary. If this is indeed what he meant we would, of course, welcome this.
“It comes after myself and other group leaders from Medway Council went to see his deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, on Tuesday to demand he drops the scheme.
“And it follows our own survey, published earlier this week, which shows that none of the major airlines using Heathrow want the Thames Estuary airport either.
“I would now call upon the mayor to clarify exactly what he meant. If he is making moves to drop the estuary airport then this would be welcomed by people across Medway and Kent, but he does need to confirm this.
“I have said from the outset that this airport is a pie in the sky scheme and that phrase would appear to be getting more and more poignant as this goes on.”
Labour say the Mayor’s comments show “the idea of a Thames Estuary airport is in chaos”.
The party’s transport spokesperson on the London Assembly and vice-chair of the Assembly’s transport committee, Val Shawcross AM, said: “There is real confusion about the mayor’s aviation plans and a multi-million pound, six-runway airport is not something to flip-flop over.
“We know that he is thinking of spending taxpayers’ money on this which would be bizarre if it’s not something he wants to do. Going into an election, Londoners deserve to know what the Conservative’s plans are. Do they want this environmentally ruinous idea to go ahead or not? For once Boris should give us a straight answer.”
Dismissing today’s statements by the Mayor;s office, Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Transport Spokesperson, commented: “No attempt at spinning by the Mayor’s office can explain away the totally contradictory statements that the Mayor has made over the Thames Estuary Airport in the last 18 months.
“The Mayor must now listen to the incredible coalition of people who are opposed to the proposed airport and finally end the sorry saga of this pie in the sky idea.”