The Airports’ Commission has published a note describing its process and criteria for evaluating if the Isle of Grain airport proposal is “credible” enough to be investigated fully alongside its published shortlist.
The Commission has shortlisted two Heathrow options, and one at Gatwick, as potential solutions for the UK’s aviation capacity crunch. They also said that the estuary idea needed further evaluation to decide whether it should be included.
Now they have published the draft terms of reference for four study areas of the Isle of Grain proposal:
- Environmental impacts – assessment of the impacts on the Natura 2000 sites, coastal system, habitats and species affected and historical and archaeological sites, in constructing and operating a new airport and identifying whether the legal tests could be met.
- Operational feasibility and attitudes about moving to a new airport – assessment of key potential operational issues and potential mitigation, including meteorological and wildlife impacts, the SS Montgomery and relocating energy facilities; assessing airline, airport, business and industry attitudes to the decision to move operations to a new hub airport, and to then moving operations.
- Socio-economic impacts – assessment of the local, sub-national and national economic and social benefits and impacts of building a new hub airport in the inner Thames Estuary, closing down Heathrow and London City airports, and redeveloping the Heathrow site.
- Surface access impacts – assessment of the operational, cost and environmental impacts of any surface transport proposals required to support a new hub airport, as well as impacts on existing and planned local and strategic transport infrastructure.
The timetable they lay out allows comment to be submitted on the terms of reference themselves up until February 14, and comment relevant to the decision to be submitted under those terms of reference up to May 23. The outputs of this study would be published in July, with a further month for comment on them, and a final recommendation as to whether the Estuary should be elevated to the shortlist proper in September 2014.
If the Isle of Grain airport were to become a reality, Heathrow would have to close.