Mayor wants honest discussion of how Heathrow site can best serve city

31 March 2014

The Mayor of London has released a major new report that sets out several options for redevelopment of the Heathrow airport site if a new hub airport in the south east is eventually agreed by the Government and Heathrow airport relocates. It concludes that redeveloping the site could potentially support 90,000 new jobs and provide homes for 190,000 people.

The Mayor wants his report to kickstart an open, honest and evidence based debate on the potential of the Heathrow site to provide homes and jobs, in the face of the immense challenge posed by an increase in population for the capital, which is forecast to be equivalent to adding the population of Glasgow and Birmingham combined by 2030. In a sign of the seriousness with which the potential relocation of the airport is now being taken today (31 March) the London Borough of Hillingdon, the home of Heathrow Airport, have also released a report examining how the site might be used in the future.

Global Real Estate Advisers, Jones Lang LaSalle with PBA were responsible for the Mayor’s report. In it they tested three viable options for the Heathrow site. They worked to a theory that a new hub airport to the east of London had already been approved and that Heathrow airport would potentially relocate by 2030. They projected that many of the jobs currently provided at Heathrow would move to the new airport and be easily accessible via the world class transport links proposed. Meanwhile three scenarios for the redevelopment of the Heathrow site would create thousands of new jobs. Those scenarios are:

A new education and technology quarter: This would recognise the important role that the higher education sector and its research capabilities have in supporting the London economy. A new education quarter based around two new large campus universities could support 100,000 jobs. It would deliver 30,000 homes and 10,000 student housing units. When fully developed the quarter would generate an extra £7.8bn a year for the London economy. Similar types of education quarters can be found at Paris Saclay and in Boston.

A new town: This would take the form of an entirely new town that would look to provide over 48,000 homes for 112,000 people. The report anticipates that some commuting in and out of the town would occur but it should be possible to achieve a broad balance of jobs and workers living in the town with 76,000 jobs created in total. When fully developed this option would generate around £6bn every year.

A new residential quarter: This would create a new London residential quarter on the scale of Hammersmith and Fulham or Kensington and Chelsea. Many of the population would commute for work to central London or out to the Thames Valley. Nearly 82,000 new homes would support a population of 200,000. The report estimates 54,000 jobs would be created with 46,000 of those jobs in activities supporting the local population. When fully developed this option would generate around £3.9bn a year.

The report concludes that the most likely scenario for redeveloping the airport will likely be a combination of the three options considered, which would provide the opportunity for strong levels of job creation and housing growth. A further fourth “Heathrow City” scenario would be of such quality that its potential is unlikely to be matched by any other site in the foreseeable future.

Heathrow City: would develop a new residential quarter around existing transport facilities. Some terminal buildings would remain for retail, town and convention centre use. There would likely be a focus on education and commercial research such as high value manufacturing spinning off into knowledge parks and office development. Altogether 80,000 homes and 90,000 jobs would be created. This option would generate around £7.5bn a year for the London economy and UK plc.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “My job as Mayor is to consider how best to face the incredible challenges posed by the unparalleled increase in population taking place in our city over the first half of this century. I believe there is no question that the best option for increasing our aviation capacity is now to the east of London, just as there is no question that Heathrow would then present a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity to create a new town within the capital that would supply thousands more homes and jobs. Relocating Heathrow would bring benefits to both east and west London and it is impossible to get one without the other. This report is about clearing away the smoke screen put up by people whose loyalty is to their shareholders, not to Londoners; and prompting a genuine, honest discussion about what London could achieve in a world post Heathrow airport.

“Londoners should be in no doubt: if Heathrow is allowed a third runway, it will be rapidly followed by a fourth, as airlines move out of Gatwick to take up the new capacity. My vision offers the capital world-class air links combined with thousands of new homes and jobs. An expanded Heathrow just offers more misery.”

Transport for London will be working with a number of organisations to put on a series of events and workshops over coming months with a brief to consider the practicalities of redeveloping the Heathrow site with greater honesty and accuracy than ever before.

The argument that the only way to satisfy the need for extra aviation capacity would be to expand to a four runway hub airport was further strengthened last week. Supporters of a new runway at Gatwick Airport claim that Heathrow is inaccessible for low-cost airlines due to its higher landing charges. But the Chief Executive of EasyJet has now categorically rejected that assertion, citing the airline's operations at other European hub airports, and being undeterred by their higher landing fees. Once and for all, this should put paid to the idea that expansion of hub airport capacity is incompatible with continued growth of low-cost carriers. A London hub airport which can offer sufficient capacity and resilient, efficient operations on an unconstrained site will be able to cater for increased low-cost carrier activity - realistically, this can only be delivered with a new four runway hub airport to the east of London.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “Whilst it is apparent that the only senior politician, of any party, with the clarity of vision to deal with this issue is Boris Johnson the decision on where to build the new airport is not, at this time, his to make. However, what is abundantly clear is the need to start preparing now for the future of the site. Our document, Heathrow Park, begins the debate and outlines a future without the airport or with a smaller airport. It shows the real potential of the site and presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to create tens of thousands of jobs and homes.”

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council agrees with the statement made by the local MP John McDonnell that “we will need to counter the threat to jobs campaign that has been funded by Heathrow Airport in the Back Heathrow Campaign” and the statement of the Airports Commission in their Interim Report that Heathrow is “a very substantial site for redevelopment” and “supporting the shift of London’s economic centre of gravity eastwards to allow for further expected population growth, combined with a major redevelopment opportunity of the Heathrow site, is an alluring prospect which could have a major impact on the economic geography of the South East.”