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Controversial Estuary airport plan to go out to consultation

Proposals for building a new London airport in the Thames Estuary will be put out to consultation in the spring, it has been confirmed.

The Department for Transport will consult on a “sustainable framework for aviation” and “explore all the options for maintaining the UK’s aviation hub status” for the long term, it said today. But it added that while “no decisions have been taken” it would not pursue options for a third runway at Heathrow airport.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, long time backer of the estuary airport plan London mayor Boris Johnson said that he refuted suggestions that such a scheme would take decades. Instead it could be built in the same time frame that saw Singapore’s airport or Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok airport built, such as 10 to 12 years, he said.

However, business lobby group London First chief executive Jo Valentine said that while the government’s recognition of the need to increase air hub capacity is “encouraging and welcome” the £50bn airport could realistically take 20 years to deliver. “Growth in Asia and the Middle East is happening now,” said Valentine. “Government must come up with a more immediate solution to help business to tap into these markets.”

Airlines are in favour of expanding Heathrow. Last month International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh told an ICE lecture that the Estuary airport proposals were unfundable and would meet with fierce resistance from those wishing to keep Heathrow open.

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