PM 'interested' in Estuary airport
The Government is getting "increasingly interested" in the idea of a new airport in the Thames Estuary, London mayor Boris Johnson has said.
Mr Johnson already firmly backs a new "Boris Island" airport and architect Lord Foster has produced plans for a £50 billion airport on the Isle of Grain in Kent.
With a third runway ruled out at Heathrow, the Government is set to include the Thames Estuary option in a consultation on UK aviation this spring.
Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be growing keener on a Thames Estuary airport plan.
On BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Johnson said: "I think that where we are is that the Government is increasingly interested in this idea. I genuinely believe that they see not just the overwhelming aviation argument and the argument from international competitiveness in making sure that Britain has a hub airport that is viable for the long-term future."
But Mick Rix, the GMB union's civil aviation industry national officer, said a Thames Estuary plan was "plain daft" and called on all political parties to reopen the issue of Heathrow's third runway.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "No decisions have been taken. As the Chancellor made clear in his autumn statement, we will explore all the options for maintaining the UK's aviation hub status with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow."
Colin Matthews, chief executive of airport operator BAA, which runs Heathrow, told the Today programme: "An island airport is very long and very expensive. Even if it is agreed, it will be decades away. We need jobs and we need growth in this economy today."
However, Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth's executive director, said: "A new airport in the Thames estuary would have a devastating impact on local communities and the environment - and all for pie-in-the sky economics that simply don't add up.London doesn't need another hub airport."
Having scrapped Labour's plans for a third Heathrow runway, the coalition Government had, originally, ruled out expansion at any south east England airport. Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement, however, indicated that only the Heathrow option was off the table.