Move Heathrow to artificial island to free land, says report

London's Heathrow Airport should be replaced by an air-and-rail hub on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary, to make way for a fast-expanding London and cut down on air and noise pollution, a new NGO report says.

Relocating Heathrow would free up 1,000 hectares of land in the middle of a housing shortage hot-spot, potentially worth over £6,8bn, according to the report published by the Town and Country Planning Association.

The vacated land could provide space for more than 30,000 homes, according to the report entitled Heathrow: A retirement Plan published this week exactly 60 years after Heathrow Airport opened on 31 May 1946.

Transport-wise, re-locating Heathrow could be combined with cutting out unnecessary and polluting short-haul flights and replacing them with high-speed rail, authors Tony Hall and Peter Hall suggest. It would also give the crammed airport space to expand without infringing on the quality of life of Londoners.

Several cities are quoted in the report as having successfully re-located their aging airports under dual pressure from urban expansion and air traffic growth – including Berlin, Paris, New York and Hong Kong.

The suggested “retirement plan” is a long-term one, with the airport gradually phased out from its current location between now and the next century.

The authors acknowledge that a five or even ten-year relocation timescale would be “logistically impossible and economically ruinous.”

“[The report] is a plea for long-term planning that would result in Heathrow’s replacement, and eventual closure, over a long period of time: between now and the next century.

“Such an approach may seem extraordinarily blue-sky and unworldly. If so, it only demonstrates the degree to which, in the UK, we are wedded to a style of planning that is short-term, incremental and fundamentally sub-optimal in its outcomes. But is does not have to be that way. It merely requires that we think long and think big,” they write.

Heathrow: A retirement plan has been published as a supplement to the Town and Country Planning Journal, available from the TCPA.

Goska Romanowicz

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie