Controversial plans to build a four-runway airport and transport hub in the Thames Estuary are developing on paper, as concept designs of the site are unveiled by a leading architect.
Lord Foster – the architect behind major construction projects including Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport and Beijing’s Terminal 3 – calls his latest design for a Thames hub an “integrated vision for Britain”.
Jointly funded by Foster + Partners and engineers Halcrow, the proposal to build a £50bn airport on reclaimed marshland on the Isle of Grain in Kent is touted by some as a viable solution to meet Britain’s future transport needs.
Under Foster’s plan, the airport would be able to handle 150 million passengers a year: double the passenger traffic served at Heathrow Airport, which is running at 99 percent capacity.
It would also bring together a new flood barrier crossing the estuary, a freight port and high speed rail linking London with the north of Britain and around Europe.
Lord Foster and the aviation industry believe that London needs to make room to meet future demand for travel if it is to compete globally as a centre of commerce.
Supporters of the idea say the Thames hub would boost trade links with the world and relieve the traffic burden on congested airports in the South-East, where extra runways have been ruled out by the government.
In August, the coalition government warned that London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports will reach full capacity by 2030.
The Foster plan is also supported by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who believes that capacity-constrained Heathrow airport is diverting economic growth to Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam Airports, which have multiple runways.
The Thames hub would use tidal power to generate energy and flights would take-off and land over water, reducing noise levels and allowing flights to operate around-the-clock.
But the plan has been met with fierce opposition from Medway Council in Kent, which said Lord Foster’s proposed site was one of the worst places for anyone to build a new airport.
Councillor Rodney Chambers, the leader of the council previously called it “the latest in a long list of pie in the sky schemes that have been put forward for an airport.”
He added: “We have looked at Lord Foster’s plan and he appears to want to place his fantasy Isle of Grain airport on top of the liquefied natural gas plant and a power station. It beggars belief.”
Opposition also comes from local residents and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which cites environmental concerns and the area’s rich bird life.
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