aerotplis, CncdHhwL

Image courtesy of Heathrow Airports Ltd.

The commission examining options to expand London’s airport capacity has eliminated the proposal for a new airport in the Thames Estuary put forward by Fosters + Partners.

In an article in the Architects Journal, Christopher Choa, principal, urban design + planning, AECOM, commented: “The Mayor should be applauded for underscoring the importance of developing the UK’s global aviation hub – this was not a well understood issue until he personally brought the discussion back to the public table. However, the Commission’s recent decision to rule out the Thames Estuary airport option brings some welcomed clarity.

“This airport debate is about much more than just runways. London and the UK urgently need to secure their global gateway hub at Heathrow. Relocating the London hub 55 miles from its current location doesn’t make sense, no matter how pure the potential aviation diagram in the estuary.

“The performance of Heathrow hub rests not only on the aviation capacity of the airport itself, but also its close and growing connectivity with the city and specializing industries that have grown organically in step with the airport. It would be irresponsible to turn away from decades of investment, development, and infrastructure connectivity.

“For many reasons, London needs to work hard at encouraging its compactness; the urban sprawl that would eventually be induced by the estuary option was a glaring environmental weakness. The economic argument that the estuary airport would potentially help build up East London was also misleading; Stratford and East London are already much closer to Heathrow than they would ever be to the estuary site. With Crossrail, the global hub at Heathrow is a 45-minute ride from East London.

“The debate should now shift to how the broader areas around the airport can best specialize to create the greatest economic, social, and environmental benefit for the surrounding boroughs and London itself.

“London is very strong at regeneration; we instinctively understand the value of adapting and reusing our assets rather than casting far afield for greenfield sites. We should take our extraordinary experience of re-imagining the post-industrial area of the Lower Lea Valley to heart. Expanding the UK’s global hub at Heathrow builds on strength, not weakness.

“Growth at Heathrow is the most effective way to support the vitality of London, in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of public expenditure.”

Commission Chair Howard Davies, London Mayor Boris Johnson, architect Norman Foster, and Weston Williamson’s Chris Williamson also commented in the article. Johnson and Foster remain committed to the Thames Estuary option. Williamson favors an expansion at Luton Airport. Architect Terry Farrells, Gensler’s Ian Mulcahey, HOK’s Richard Gammon, and Grimshaw’s Jolyon Brewis state their agreement with the commission findings in the article.

The proposals still under consideration include an expansion of Gatwick Airport and two alternatives involving Heathrow.

AECOM Editors

Originally published Sep 3, 2014

Author: AECOM Editors