The development potential in land “sitting empty” in the east of London could be unlocked by a Thames Estuary Hub airport, the mayor of London’s chief aviation adviser has claimed.
Daniel Moylan told Construction News Boris Johnson’s proposals for a hub airport on the Isle of Grain would help the regeneration of London’s ‘opportunity areas’ (see box).
He said: “London’s development in the past has been excessively concentrated in the centre and the west. It’s reaching a point where the transport system will not cope with the intensification of population.”
Mr Johnson’s proposal, dubbed ‘Boris Island’, was left off the shortlist of schemes for new airport capacity in the capital by Sir Howard Davies, who published an interim report on the matter in December last year.
Sir Howard shortlisted three options: an additional runway at Gatwick and two different options for extra capacity at Heathrow.
Mr Moylan said: “A new airport is such a powerful generator of economic activity that if it were located to the east of the capital with the right supporting transport infrastructure such as the mayor is advocating, then it would help to reorientate the city in such a way as to make all that land currently sitting empty available for the homes and jobs we need to accommodate London’s growing population.”
He added: “If the argument about airport infrastructure simply deteriorates into a debate about where is the cheapest place to put 3 km of tarmac then I’m afraid we will have missed a huge opportunity.”
Barton Wilmore planning partner Robin Shepherd warned of what would be “left behind” after a decision on airport capacity has been made, such as the impact it would have on employment and residents.
He said: “A new airport requires time and thought, including its wider infrastructure. It should evolve at its own pace… let’s not try and adopt a Chinese solution; it’s important that we have democracy.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has identified 33 opportunity areas across London for the development of new homes and jobs.
The areas have been described by the mayor as a “major” source of brownfield land, with each area typically accommodating 2,500 homes, up to 5,000 jobs or a combination of the two.
Areas in the east of London include: Stratford; Royal Docks and Beckton Waterfront; Ilford; and London Riverside.
Mr Moylan said: “London’s development in the past has been excessively concentrated in the centre and west and we’re reaching the point where the transport systems simply aren’t going to be able to cope with an intensification of population if all the jobs are in those areas.”
Independent consultant and former Drivers Jonas Deloitte head of airport consulting Andrew Lomax said land values would be highest around Heathrow.
Using past airports as a comparison, Mr Lomax said highest land values were achieved the closer they were to the airport, with variations in land value also caused by availability of land and wider infrastructure potential.
Mr Lomax said Heathrow had a lot more industrial land, with office development potential helping to drive up value. However, he added that being connected to the airport would be needed to support this.
Heathrow would need extra hotel rooms and could house a major conference facility, he added.
Mr Johnson’s submission to the Airports Commission last year called for Heathrow to be demolished to make way for a new town.
He questioned whether the office and residential development around Boris Island would be sufficient to attract business.
Mr Lomax said: “Assuming Heathrow would close… I think most of the non-airport-related offices would stay in Heathrow and some of the industrials left behind would also stay.” These would include hotels, which would “continue to serve their market: London”.
While there were plans for new transport links to the east, including Crossrail, Mr Lomax said he had not seen evidence of how extra people around the Thames Estuary would be accommodated.