Another airport runway

The issue of building a further runway to accommodate increased air traffic in and out of the UK has again been raised, with the argument mostly coming down to whether there should be a third runway built at Heathrow or a second runway built at Gatwick. I realize as is often the case in such matters there are going to be arguments for and against one or other of the propositions that have been presented. As always, I urge for there to be well argued business cases for either proposition, to help us all to decide.

A further dimension that cannot be easily dismissed, despite my early skepticism concerning such matters, is the environmental one and the danger we face from global warming. Some who feel strongly on such matters will argue increase in air travel only goes to worsen the situation, and are vehemently opposed to adding further airport runways. Such arguments merit consideration.

I should say that I am not qualified to pronounce as to which of Heathrow and Gatwick is going to be the better solution, although I aware as a result of simple Google searches on the question that strong arguments have been presented that come down on one side or the other. I am also mindful that the government has pontificated for a long time over making a decision and suspect despite the remonstrations of environmentally minded friends is we need an additional runway and the more there is delay in making a decision the more potentially damaging to the UK economy it will be.Sad to say, even after decades of waiting and needing a decision, one has not been made, sadly reflecting a void in real national leadership.

I raise this matter, not only because periodically the matter is raised in various media, and such has been the case recently, but as a result of a discussion I had yesterday with a would-be politician, whose thunder I have no intention of taking away. As far as he was concerned, the solution was neither Gatwick nor Heathrow, but rather to build a new airport out to sea on the mouth of the Thames Estuary and linked to this develop the corridor along the Essex edge of the Thames leading up to London. This could also bring positive environmental benefits, being built out to sea rather than inland and alleviating the pressure on airports inland, although my friends “in the know” will no doubt have alternate takes on this matter.

I was reminded in the early 1970’s proposals were put forward to build an airport along Maplin Sands (that after heated discussion were abandoned), and while there have been airport expansion in various places in the interim there has not been to my knowledge any new runway built since that time. I understand technically this is possible and such an airport could take over from Heathrow as London’s main airport. As always, and whenever decisions need to be made, I would like to see the cases being fairly presented – in this case whether to build (and where) or not build.

What particularly interested me was the “bigger” picture that sometimes gets overlook, especially when all too often nimbyism takes root as it too often has in this current debate. While there have been developments since ten years ago when I took a nostalgic boat trip from the end of Southend pier to London’s Tower Bridge but my understanding is that the dilapidated, depressing profile seen along the Essex-Thames coastline, representing industry that one thrived but no longer is, will still present itself. My friend’s idea of, in his words, a cultural corridor, to develop those areas, seems to make sense, and it at least alerted my interest. Not only could this be used to promote culture in its various guises, it could go to increase our housing stock, noting there will be a net increase in immigration, including refugees and, moreover, it would provide new jobs, including the doing necessary developments for the new airport.

Of course the arguments need to be laid out and given the focus presently on deciding soon either in favour of the “Heathrow” or “Gatwick” solution this alternative, linked as it is to a much wider vision of what the UK can / should become, is one that has certain merits that deserves urgent consideration.

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