Since the 1970s there have been a number of proposals for relocating the UK’s hub airport to the Thames estuary, starting with the Maplin Sands proposal on the Essex shore, and then other sites in the estuary, such as the Isle of Sheppey Marinair proposal in the 1990’s.
More recently sites on the Kent shore have also been suggested, at Cliffe Marshes on the Hoo Peninsula, but none were seriously pursued.
The Beckett Rankine Goodwin Sands scheme joins two other offshore proposals under serious and active consideration to build a new multi-runway hub east of the capital.
However, Beckett said that both the Foster/Halcrow scheme on the Isle of Grain and the so-called Boris Island scheme proposed by Testrad and past ICE President Doug Oakervee were seriously flawed technically.
For example, the Foster/Halcrow hub not only risked impacting the shipping lanes but would also require the Isle of Grain gas storage facility - a critical UK infrastructure asset - to be relocated.
The Testrad scheme would, he said, also risk having a substantial impact on the shipping lanes and wind farms. Both of the estuary schemes, he added, had substantial impacts on both birdlife and protected environmental areas.
In contrast, Beckett said the Goodwin Sands location meant the airport platform would have no interference with shipping lanes, no impact on environmentally protected areas and no interference with birdlife habitats. Also, he said, because all take-off and landing was over water, it would allow the potential for 24 hour running.
“Our weak spot is the distance from London,” he admitted, pointing out that, while it is closer than Birmingham, the proposed site is 100km from the capital. “But using the Eurostar service it would take 40 minutes from Stratford, and there is spare capacity on High Speed 1 - perhaps up to 55M passengers a year,” said Beckett.
He also accepted that the airport would serve east London better than the west, but pointed out that the Crossrail service now under construction would significantly speed cross capital connections.
“We are providing a hub for northern Europe,” he said. “Currently Schipol is the feeder for the rest of the UK airports. We will be attracting business from Europe.”