A Norman Foster proposal to build the world’s biggest airport and transport hub in the Thames Estuary is facing opposition from councillors and environment groups
London mayor Boris Johnson, who has been a vocal supporter of a new airport in the area, welcomed the plan, unveiled earlier this week. However, the Tory leader of Medway council, which covers the airport’s proposed location, said it was ‘unaffordable’ and ‘unnecessary’, while the RSPB called it ‘environmental vandalism’.
Foster + Partners self-funded a £100,000 study by Halcrow infrastructure specialists to show how a major transport hub could be built in the estuary. The plans involve building an airport on reclaimed land around the Isle of Grain, which would have the capacity for 150 million passengers a year. The airport would connect to rail and road links across the country. A replacement for the Thames Barrier also forms part of the plans, powering the airport using tidal energy.
Johnson said: ‘I am grateful to Lord Foster for spelling out the potential for a new airport, properly rooted in a broader vision for the Thames Estuary.’
But Councillor Rodney Chambers, leader of Medway council, condemned the idea. ‘Lord Foster’s plan to build an airport on the Isle of Grain is, quite possibly, the daftest in a long list of pie in the sky schemes that have been put forward,’ he said. ‘I can only assume neither Lord Foster nor Boris Johnson – who is said to be thrilled by this plan – have actually left their offices and travelled from London to the Isle of Grain to have a look.’
Paul Outhwaite, spokesman for the RSPB, said the proposed site contains two special protection areas for birds. ‘You wouldn’t think about knocking down Canterbury Cathedral and building a new car park,’ he said. ‘It’s the same sort of thing.’
Huw Thomas, partner at Foster + Partners, said the mixed reaction was expected. ‘The fundamental thing is that people are talking about it,’ he said. ‘As
a country we need that debate. It’s only to be expected that people have concerns, but it has to be a wide-ranging debate that everyone contributes to.’