Analysing the main differences between building an airport at Cliffe on the north Kent coast and an airport in the Thames estuary that has the current backing of Boris Johnson the London mayor. Both airports would work but I have found that Cliffe airport is the best option in the current climate.
The aviation industry is rapidly expanding even during times of recessions which is why governments need to look forward to the future at ways to expand their existing airports or at ways to introduce a new airport. If the government doesn’t keep up with the demand for air travel the major airports that are in place will eventually reach their capacity which has serious consequences for the industry as well as the economy. This is why the government has had serious plans for building a brand new airport to accommodate and expand the existing capacity. The main two ideas I’m discussing are to build a new airport at Cliffe on the north Kent coast or build an airport in the Thames estuary.
The plans for Cliffe airport would be an airport the size of Heathrow if not bigger. There would be plans for 5 runways but it would be built with 2 main runways and one for crosswinds. The airport would be built on low quality land with minimal disruption compared with expanding an existing airport. Cliffe has existing rail and road links already in place. This would need to be updated but this is minimal compared with building a new road rail link. In 2003 the plans for Cliffe were dropped due the environmental impacts and the costs were too high. Building an airport so close to the mud flaps of the Thames estuary would also mean that there would be a high chance of safety being compromised with all the birds nesting in the area. Apart from the environmental damage of building the airport there the planners would also have to monitor and prevent bird strikes from happening.
· Costs would be lower compared to building within the Thames estuary as the land is already there.
· The land is of a low quality and is relatively empty.
· Existing road and rail links in place meaning a low impact on surrounding area just needs a need to update existing service.
· Surrounding area would be regenerated newer schools better homes and more people move to where the jobs are.
· Strategic Location for flights from all destinations.
· Noise would affect people in Gravesend and Medway but if aircrafts were routed over the sea noise would be minimal.
· Still impacts local services i.e. one church would be directly affected and four would be within the surrounding area.
· Homes in the surrounding area would be affected.
· Already been discredited by the government in 2003
· Energy issues for the airport and the new community that would have to be built.
Thames estuary airport
There have been several plans to build an airport within the Thames estuary over the last few decades. The most notable was maplin sands that had the approval from the government and they had plans to start the work in 1973. Unfortunately the 73/74 oil crisis meant it was scraped and instead stansted was expanded. Most recently the idea has come back into the spot light because of the need for expansion as the existing airports reach their limit and the fact that the mayor of London Boris Johnson is backing it.
The plan is to build a manmade island much like the one built in Hong Kong. The island would be artificial made and would have the advantage of allowing aircrafts to take off 24hrs a day. The airport would have high speed rail links linking it into central London and new road link would be installed. There is also a possibility to have river taxis taking people straight into central London within in an hour.
· No impact to people land or property.
· Aircrafts can be directed and come in from the North Sea giving a relatively low noise disturbance.
· Future expansion can be easily added on such as they did Chek lap kok.
· Cargo can easily be linked in with shipping by combing the airport with a shipping cargo service
· 24hr operation.
· No need to worry about bird strikes that far out at sea.
· Relatively high cost compared to using reclaimed land such as Cliffe.
· Risk of flooding.
· No infrastructure in the local area which would need to be installed and would cause a major disruption i.e. new road and rail links.
· Energy issues for the airport and the new community that would have to be built.
There are allot of issues arising from both of these two new airports plans. The aviation industry is a highly regulated and monitored industry especially by environmentalists. The building of either of these two airport would bring on allot of pressure from environmental groups about the impact that these new airports would cause.
The main concerns with Cliffe airport would be the loss of land and impacts on the local birds living and nesting in that area. Once the airport is built I believe that the birds will stay away from such a noisy and busy area, however having such a large number of birds within the area would mean that there would be a high risk from bird strikes. The airport would have to be managed in a way that they monitored the birds in the area and encourage them to stay away to avoid bird strikes.
The Thames estuary airport wouldn’t impact the local birds as much as Cliffe but would still have its own environmental issues such as the building road links with the land and the building of the airport.
The figures that have been published for Cliffe have been highly exaggerated to make out that the airport would have a greater impact on the local community. The size of the airport has been compared with maps of London to exaggerate its size but Cliffe would be of similar size to Heathrow. The cost of building the airport has also be exaggerated when no matter how much it costs it’s never going to be as much as building on the Thames estuary because the land is already there.
The idea for the Thames estuary airport has had the backing of Boris Johnson which has meant that more people have become interested in the idea and it is been taking seriously. Boris has recently received his report from Douglas Oakervee about the feasibility of building an airport in the Thames Estuary. The report concludes that there is no overwhelming logistical constrains to the construction of the airport and that a holistic approach is need for the future use of the airport. The report recommends that a working group is set up for further studies that will properly consider issues such as energy, flood management, transport, ecology and regeneration.
This only shows that the mayor and his team are taking this idea extremely seriously. However I believe they should also be looking back into the idea of Cliffe as it solves some of the problems that would arise from the Thames estuary airport.
The reason there is a need for a new airport is due to the fact that the existing airport have almost reached their capacity and any more expansion would have severe disturbance to the local area from noise pollution and building works. England and especially London are at the cross road to the world which is why Heathrow as a Hub Airport has become so large through all the traffic it generates. This is why a new airport is needed to lift the pressure of the existing airports and not let them fall behind within the aviation industry compared with other countries. Having a new airport within the Thames estuary area would also create thousands of jobs directs and even more indirectly and would bring allot of money and wealth into the surrounding area. As aircrafts become larger and can travel further the need for a Hub airport decreases and point to point becomes more common. Which is why Heathrow shouldn’t be expanded any more than building a third runway instead the government should invest in building a new airport which in turn would bring in millions of pounds from revenue and taxes into the economy.
Once the new airport was built there would be allot of pressure to encourage airlines to move from their existing airports to the new airport. During the first few years the government would and should intervene by helping the new airport look attractive to existing airlines. If the government were to put a cap on the number of flights operating from Gatwick and Heathrow then as it reached its capacity other airlines would have no choice but to move to the new airport. The government could also offer incentives and tax relief to airlines that make the move. The majority of airlines that would move first would be mainly low cost carriers like Ryanair that don’t mind where they operate from as long as the price is right. Airlines like Virgin are going to want to stay at their existing places as a direct competitor to BA. This isn’t to say that a big airline wouldn’t want to move into the new airport as airlines are increasingly operating worldwide meaning it could be any number of airlines from around the globe.
Both of the airports would work. If money wasn’t a problem then the Thames estuary would defiantly be an attractive option. It would be a world class airport that would show other countries we know what where doing when it comes to engineering and aviation. It would solve allot of problems with capacity and wouldn’t impact many people lives. However as the current economic climate is unstable and money is a big issue the Cliffe airport would be a more worthy option. The land that it would be built on is currently not being used apart from a few farms so the impact would be minimal. It has road and rail links already in place and the overall cost of building on land would be allot lower than the Thames estuary plans. Bird strikes may be a problem but with a few control measures and prevention it shouldn’t pose as a risk to the aircrafts safety. There were several large scale campaigns at the time opposing Cliffe airport the main arguments where the size of the airport and the impact on local wildlife. No matter where you build an airport or expand an existing airport there are always going to be people who oppose it and come up with some reason why it shouldn’t be built. Cliffe airport will affect the local wildlife and it won’t be small but it will have the least amount of impact on the local people. The new airport would bring in thousands of jobs which is why the advantages far exceed this. Cliffe airport is the answer that the SE needs to sustain its aviation industry.