The Thames Estuary Research and Development Company (Testrad) was formed to promote the idea of an airport in the estuary, and involves a number of partners including former Crossrail chief Doug Oakervee and Bridget Rosewell of Volterra. The design work on the new airport has been done by Gensler.
The plan remains to build a new island airport in the estuary at a cost of just over £47bn which will become the UK’s hub, and replace Heathrow. Testrad propose that Heathrow would be redeveloped as a “major new city district… providing homes for 300,000 people and employment for over 200,000”.
They reason this will realise funding – from the development gain in building the homes and workspace – which can fund the new airport, contributing around £47bn Testrad feel. It is not clear how the present owners of Heathrow would be compensated for their loss, or why they would choose to give up any development gain that might be realised to fund a new airport.
A recent report from Regeneris indicates that over 250,000 jobs would be lost in West London and the Thames Valley if Heathrow were to close, so the proposed numbers of new jobs would not offset that. Sceptics are bound to observe that few people are likely to want to move in to an area where there are not enough jobs for those who live there already.
The indicative access plan (left) shows just how far a new airport would be from central London. As far east as Stratford, the Heathrow site would still be closer than the estuary. It’s clear that even with Crossrail linked to it, commuting from West London to work there would be unfeasible, meaning a wholesale shift of working population would be a likely consequence.
The implications of this plan for West London could be cataclysmic.
It is known to be one of the proposals, along with expanding Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, that the Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies is actively considering, so it could happen.
West London needs to begin planning now for the action it would take to avoid an economic disaster on the scale that befell London Docklands when containerisation closed the docks down should what many believe to be a madcap idea become a reality.