Estuary airport would provide 1000s more jobs than any other option
New figures released today (26 August) indicate that having a new airport in the Thames Estuary would support 336,000 jobs around the country in 2050, around a third more than an expanded Heathrow and more than five times as many jobs as an expanded Gatwick airport would provide. The new figures were released on the day that a Chamber of Commerce survey found that the proposal to build a new airport in the Estuary is strongly supported by the Kent business community.
The Airports Commission, who have been charged with recommending a strategy for providing new aviation capacity, are expected to announce within a matter of weeks whether building a new airport in the Thames Estuary should be added to their formal shortlist of options. Today the Mayor of London reminded the Commission of the compelling benefits of doing so by publishing a report that compared plans for an estuary airport to the schemes already shortlisted and explained how it would be the only option that can fully address the economic and social challenges facing the country.
The figures released today are the first time that a like-for-like comparison of each of the options being considered by the Airports Commission has been attempted. These figures represent the number of jobs that will be supported by the operation of each airport, and its supply chains. They do not account for the additional jobs that would result from the development of new business activity in East London and along transport corridors in Kent and Essex.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “There is no better example of the stark choice between planning for the future and depressing short-termism. A new hub airport, properly planned, has the potential to reshape the economic geography of London and the whole of the southeast for decades to come. It would be a project of a scale we are no longer accustomed to in this country, though it has become commonplace elsewhere. We simply cannot afford to miss out on the opportunities a new airport would give us.”
Business groups from around the country are also expressing their support for shortlisting the Thames Estuary airport. Hundreds of businesses have responded to a survey carried out by Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, which found strong support for a new airport in the estuary and endorsed it as the best option for providing new aviation capacity. Support for a new airport in the Isle of Grain was three times the level of that for an expanded Heathrow and it recorded around a third more support than plans for a new runway at Gatwick.
Richard Lavender, Director at the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have surveyed our members and they have given strong backing to the proposal to build a new four runway airport in the Thames Estuary. Our members have endorsed it as the best way of providing the hub capacity the UK desperately needs. It will provide fantastic global links for businesses in Kent and it is the only long-term strategic solution to the airport capacity shortage. The local economy will be transformed, bringing thousands of new jobs to an area that has suffered from decline and low investment”.
Other business groups in support of shortlisting a Thames Estuary Airport can be found the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. They include the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Highland and Islands Transport Partnership, the Liverpool and Sefton Chamber of Commerce, the Darlington Business Club and the Hull Bondholders Scheme.
Peter Aarosin, a leading businessman in Humberside and Chair of Hull Bondholders, a powerful group of 230 businesses in Humberside, said: “Only a direct link to the UK’s main airport can deliver the global connectivity the Humber region needs and Heathrow, even with a third runway will never give us that. However, a new four runway hub could sustain a daily service to and from the Humber bringing with it huge economic benefits for the estuary”.
In “Gateway to our Future: Why the UK needs a new hub airport” new figures from Oxford Economics that illustrate the contribution of a Thames Estuary airport to the UK economy are also released. In 2050, the air service connectivity available at a new four runway hub airport in the Thames Estuary would underpin £92.1bn of national GDP each year. By comparison, the inferior connectivity on offer at a three runway Heathrow would generate £59.1bn, and a two runway Gatwick only £22.6bn. These figures represent the impact each airport would have in facilitating trade, foreign direct investment and tourism. Ahead of a decision on shortlisting the estuary airport, the new report also makes a series of key recommendations and cautions to the Airports Commission. They include:
- The Airports Commission needs to look further ahead and take a wider view of its work so as to incorporate the challenges of a growing population into its thinking.
- The Airports Commission needs to be clear as to its view on whether Britain can afford to lose its hub airport capacity. If it agrees with most observers that such a loss would be a mistake, with terrible economic consequences in the long term, then it must make that insight fundamental to how it conducts the remainder of its work.
- The Airports Commission needs to recognise that a second runway at Gatwick will end Britain’s hub aviation status and that imposing a third runway at Heathrow is environmentally unacceptable in a civilised city and fraught with political delivery risk.
- The Airports Commission has identified the challenges to creating a new hub airport in the Thames estuary. It needs now to acknowledge that none of these challenges is insuperable in a confident, growing economy which can draw on Britain’s great engineering expertise.
- If the Airports Commission’s recommendation about extra capacity in the southeast does not provide a high level of certainty of improved links between London and the regions and between the regions and the wider world, then the process will have failed many parts of the UK.
Proposals for a new airport in the Thames Estuary also enjoy support from key east London areas that would benefit from airport-related regeneration. Nick Raynsford, Member of Parliament for Greenwich & Woolwich, said: “The future prosperity of the UK depends crucially on the correct decision being reached on expanding London’s airport capacity. Only a four-runway hub in the Thames Estuary allows us to meet Britain’s long-term economic and environmental needs”.