Essex: FSB opposes Thames hub airport plans

SMALL business leaders in Essex have voted to oppose proposals by Mayor of London Boris Johnson for a new “hub” airport in the Thames estuary.

Instead, the county executive of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling for greater use to be made of available capacity at existing airports, including Stansted.

The Government has ruled out construction of an additional runway at Heathrow, although Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement left the door open for further expansion at Gatwick and Stansted, which it has previously ruled out.

Mr Johnson, however, has championed the creation of a new airport built entirely on reclaimed land in the Thames estuary.

And leading architect Lord Foster has put forward an alternative involving some land reclamation to extend a site on the Isle of Grain, which would include a direct rail link to the new airport from the East Anglian main line.

Iain Wicks, chairman of the FSB in Essex, said: “There is acceptance by Essex FSB that there will be an increase in the number of people flying from airports in the South East.

“But rather than create a new airport in the Thames estuary, with all the problems that would bring, we would like to see better use mad of the available capacity at existing airports including London Southend, London Stansted and Manston in Kent.

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“We also believe that if a hub airport is needed consideration should be given to London Gatwick being developed to fulfil that role.”

Lord Foster’s proposal, known as the Thames Hub, is for an airport capable of handling 150million passengers a year and also including direct rail links with the high-speed Channel Tunnel route and the Crossrail scheme currently under construction to improve east-west links in London.

However, the Government is under pressure to review its rejection of a third runway at Heathrow.

Opponents of the policy, including the GMB union, which represents many airport works, says further expansion at Heathrow would be far less expensive than developing a new airport from scratch.