Report contributes to transport select committee examination which aims to influence the UK’s aviation policy

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AN AIRPORT in the Thames Estuary is unnecessary, too costly, in the wrong location and damaging to the environment.

That’s the message from town hall chiefs in Medway to the Government’s transport select committee.

The parliamentary group opened its own examination into aviation in September in response to the launch of the independent commission chaired by economist Sir Howard Davies – set up by the Government and unlikely to report its findings before the next general election in 2015.

Chair of the transport committee Louise Ellman MP said the strategy for aviation should not be delayed further and invited the public and interested groups to submit their views.

She said this feedback would help influence the Government during the policy development process with “sensible but challenging recommendations”.

In response, Medway Council, supported by Swale Borough Council, submitted a report expressing its opposition to a Thames Estuary airport with evidence supporting its views.

Drawn up by director of regeneration Robin Cooper, the submission outlines better options to the “unviable” estuary airport plan.

“The proposals to build an airport in the estuary are simply not sensible,” the council stated.

“To remain competitive globally we need an airport that can be built in a timeframe that will allow us to remain competitive with our European rivals, that does not have a disastrous environmental impact, that will not require significant taxpayer subsidy and will attract airlines.

“The proposals to build an estuary airport fail on each and every one of these criteria and are not a viable solution to the UK’s future aviation needs.”

The report answers a list of questions set out by the transport select committee, including how to make better use of existing airport capacity.

The council said it believed use of spare capacity in existing airports coupled with the development of smaller airports such as Manston and linked in with high speed rail was a “much better solution” to the future of aviation.

“We believe it is essential the Government’s aviation strategy must be based on practicality, affordability and common sense.

“We accept that to remain internationally competitive, the UK needs to increase aviation capacity now.

“Building an airport in the Thames Estuary, however, would be a costly mistake –costly environmentally, costly for West London and costly for UK plc.

“Plans for an estuary airport have been made to look attractive by a number of well-designed presentations and smart sound bites, but behind the veneer is a proposal that is ill-thought out, ill-conceived and unaffordable.”

There are currently a number of options being considered; expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick, linking up existing airports, or closing Heathrow and opening a hub airport in the Thames Estuary.

Architect Lord Foster has unveiled plans for a multi-billion pound airport on Grain, London Mayor Boris Johnson is championing a floating airport off the north Kent coast, and architects Gensler have revealed designs for ‘London Britannia Airport’ in the estuary, which would involve four runways tethered to the seabed.

• This week Lord Heseltine called on David Cameron to decide within the year where to build new runways.

The Tory peer, former deputy prime minister of the Conservatives, said Mr Cameron needed to speed up the search for new airport capacity or risk economic recovery.

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