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AJ exclusive: Make reveals Stansted airport mega-hub proposals

Make Architects has joined the battle to solve the UK’s aviation capacity problems by unveiling plans to transform Stansted Airport into a four-runway mega-hub

The new proposals place the firm in direct competition with Foster + Partners - the former practice of Make founder Ken Shuttleworth - and global giant Gensler who have mooted alternative solutions to the country’s aviation crisis.

Both have focussed on creating new super-connected hubs in the isolated Thames Estuary. But the high-profile AJ100 practice believes the expansion of the single-runway Essex airport is the only ‘do-able’ option to replace Heathrow as the UK’s largest air travel hub.

Earlier this week architect Brian Waters and transport consultant Michael Schabas kickstarted a debate over Stansted by floating an £8 billion vision to transform the airport into a Crossrail-connected hub.

Make’s Stansted hub – like Foster’s £50 billion Thames Estuary scheme – would be able to handle around 150 million passengers a year.

However practice director Ken Shuttleworth, who left Fosters to set up Make in 2004, claimed the construction cost would be ‘considerably less’ than Foster’s vision because it excludes the need for significant infrastructure investment.

He said:  ‘[Foster and Partner’s] proposal is very ambitious and has to be applauded for that.’

‘But there is more than one option,’ he said. ‘It’s an amazing option, but the reality of making it is more challenging in the UK than in Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur.’

Explaining his scheme’s advantages, he added: ‘Stansted has very good transport links in terms of the M11 and railway and fairly low population density. It’s all built on land and it’s also closer in real terms to the majority of people in the UK, than to London.’

Under Make’s plans Heathrow would either be entirely redeveloped or reduced in size.

Shuttleworth worked at Fosters from 1977 to 2004 but was not involved in the studio’s design for Stansted Airport which opened in 1991.

Plans worked up by Make propose building three new four kilometre-long runways at Stansted and creating a new Crossrail link from the airport to Stratford, reducing train journey times from the capital to 25 minutes.

A Foster-designed 1991 main terminal building could also be transformed into a train station under the plans however full architectural details have yet to be revealed. Timescales and construction cost have yet to be confirmed.

The independent bid is the latest option on the table for the government which is facing increasing pressure to find a quick solution to the bottleneck.

This week London mayor Boris Johnson – who backs either expanding Stansted or creating a Thames Estuary airport – threatened a judicial review against the government for deferring its decision on airport capacity until 2015.

Mayor Johnson’s aviation chief Daniel Moylan is also understood to favour the principle of developing Stansted as a hub airport.

Gatwick has meanwhile announced plans for a new runway to double its capacity to 70 million passengers a year.

Read more in next week’s AJ.

Transport plan: Make Architects' Stansted Airport mega-hub proposal in Essex

Transport plan: Make Architects’ Stansted Airport mega-hub proposal in Essex

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Readers' comments (5)

  • What capacity problem? Airport passenger numbers peaked in 2007 then fell into decline and are showing no immediate prospect of picking up. You aren't going to encourage more travel and generate economic growth by increasing capacity because as I said our airports aren't close to capacity. This will be a white elephant

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  • The public inquiry that led to the development of Stanstead also concluded that anything more than a single runway would have an appalling impact on the environment and was therefor ruled out.
    The solution that London-centrics cannot see is the HS2 connection to Birmingham airport which has the room for expansion, is within an acceptable journey time, and better serves the rest of the country.

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  • The cognitive disconnect here is breathtaking.
    Why are we talking about increasing air travel? Unprecedented ice cap loss, already disrupted weather patterns and crop failures and we're only a few points of a degree in - there's 4 more degrees to go on the way to 6 at the rate we're going. Every kilogramme we emit now will have an effect on the right to life of people in the future, most likely people alive now will suffer because of this collective denial of the scale of the issue.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • The cognitive disconnect here is breathtaking.
    Why are we talking about increasing air travel? Unprecedented ice cap loss, already disrupted weather patterns and crop failures and we're only a few points of a degree in - there's 4 more degrees to go on the way to 6 at the rate we're going. Every kilogramme we emit now will have an effect on the right to life of people in the future, most likely people alive now will suffer because of this collective denial of the scale of the issue.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • We need to consider air travel for the County not just for London. Expansion at Birmingham/Manchester and in Scotland could help to provide a more balanced approach. Stansted has consent for 35 mppa but is only opperating at 17 mppa - considerable room for expansion up that the current consent.

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