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Boris asks trio of practices to design Heathrow new town


Hawkins\Brown, Rick Mather Architects and Stirling Prize-winner Maccreanor Lavington have been asked by London Mayor Boris Johnson to draw up plans for a new town on the site of Heathrow Airport

The appointments are part of Johnson’s drive to convince government to back a new hub airport to the east of the capital – a move which could lead to the closure of Heathrow and the site redeveloped as housing.

The mayor’s vision for an airport in the Thames Estuary has been losing ground to other options aimed at solving the UK’s aviation capacity problems.

In December last year an interim report by Howard Davies’ independent review came out in favour of expanding either Gatwick or Heathrow. But Davies kept on the table Foster + Partner’s Isle of Grain proposal to see whether it offered ‘a credible proposal for consideration’.

Johnson hopes to sway Davies and the commission by highlighting how a vacated Heathrow could potentially support 90,000 new jobs and provide homes for 190,000 people. He said: ‘Huge challenges are posed by the unparalleled increase in population taking place in our city over the first half of this century and I hope the designs produced by these architects will help prompt the Airports Commission into a deeper understanding of what London could achieve by way of homes and jobs in the west if Heathrow airport were relocated.’

Each of the practices will be given six weeks to draw up their proposals for the so-called  Heathrow City, including how 80,000 homes could be built on the plot and how some of the existing terminal buildings could be re-used.

Comment by NLA chairman Peter Murray

‘Just over forty years ago, Colin Buchanan, proposed building a new airport for London at Maplin Sands in the Thames Estuary. The project - including a deep-water harbour, a high-speed rail link, M12 and M13 road links and a 600,000 new town - was granted planning permission, only to be abandoned by the Harold Wilson’s Labour Government when it came to power in 1974.

‘As we enter the debate once more about the location for the expansion of London’s it is right that we fully investigate imaginative, surgical options as alternatives to the sticking plaster solutions currently top of the Davies Commission’s hit list.

‘The boldness of the Maplin infrastructure plans, reflected in the Thames Hub proposals by Foster and Partners, contrasts with the faction-driven solutions that surface in the current political climate.

‘To properly investigate and debate plans and to fully illustrate the potential for the improvement in the quality of life seems to me to be an important part of the decision-making process. The NLA is committed to the open discussion and debate of issues relating to London’s built environment. The plans of a new settlement on the site of the ancient village of Heath Row will provide a vision of the area in another 40 year’s time, Illustrate the benefits to London and the region and help us come to the right decision for the future good of the capital.’



Readers' comments (6)

  • Who's going to tell Johnson, and the government, that - since Heathrow serves a huge area of southern Britain - shifting it to the east of London would seriously hinder access for a large number of users.

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  • Kunal Manani

    You are right Robert! What's with the politicians and creating inconvenience for general public? I smell a soup of votes developers.

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  • Alex Seymour

    Electrification of the FGW rail network and the construction of Crossrail will assure far more comfortable and quicker access to any new airport east of London, from Reading and points west thereof, than would be possible today. As we are talking about at the minimum some 20 years in the future we do not need to assume the worst case scenario that today's rail travel conditions will not improve. Be optimistic like the Victorian were.

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  • You haven't convinced me, Alex, - the part of the FGW network being electrified won't be that much faster or more comfortable than the existing service, and you've forgotten the well patronised long distance bus network that ties very smoothly into Heathrow. And your vision of Crossrail would translate, in my mind, to the hassle of transferring from Eurostar to the RER at Gare du Nord and then traipsing across Paris and a fair distance out beyond the far suburbs.

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  • I worked on a scheme before parliament to develop Foulness Airport long before the Maplin proposal, for Consulting Engineer Bernard Clarke of Victoria Street, perhaps in 1969.

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  • My father was Bernard Leonard Clark who was a major proponent of the original Foulness scheme, the Roskill commission was tasked with the where to put the then third airport and Foulness became easily the best location based upon estimates of future air travel which are interesting in themselves. Having the ability to put ten additional runways in without consideration of any of the massive problems associated with the other current airport locations surely should count for a lot?

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