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  1. John Ryall

Airport expansion: The background to a Thames Estuary airport option

Plans for a Thames Estuary airport were first proposed in the 1970s. But the idea was given new impetus five years ago by the London Mayor, Boris Johnson who proposed an airport off the Isle of Sheppey.

The architect Lord Foster suggested a hub airport on the Isle of Grain and there's even a proposal to build at Goodwin Sands, near Dover.

Our reporter, John Ryall has been in north Kent to find out what people there think.

  1. Malcolm Shaw

The arguments for & against Gatwick Airport expansion

The Davies report into the future of aviation in the South highlights that airport expansion is desperately needed in the south east - but few people want a new runway in their backyard. While growth could create more jobs, it would also bring more aircraft noise and pollution.

Gatwick Airport still has a lot of spare capacity. But, is a new runway even necessary? Our correspondent Malcolm Shaw has been looking at the arguments.

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  1. Phil Hornby

Meridian East: Political reaction to airport expansion report

The Davies report into plans for the future expansion of airports in the South has not included a shortlisting for a potential Thames Estuary airport. However the option has not been completely ruled out.

If an airport were to be built in the Thames Estuary it would impact on thousands of people in North Kent. For reaction from Westminster here's our political correspondent Phil Hornby.

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Freight Transport Association says airport expansion is much needed

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said the interim report published today underlines the need for new airport capacity in the south east.

The three shortlisted options include a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow and a new runway at Gatwick.

Chris Welsh, FTA's General Manager said: "We welcome the report’s confirmation that there is a need for additional runway capacity in the south east, something FTA has long called for. his additional runway capacity is urgently needed to enhance the global air cargo hub status of Heathrow.

"Maintaining a global hub located in the UK is vital to the economy and our international competitiveness is likely to be impaired unless current airport capacity is expanded to cater for growth in international trade.”

Kent campaigners disagree with Commission findings

Heathrow Airport is one of the two airports affected in Davies' report Credit: PA

Campaigners in Kent say the new airport commission report shows 'a woeful lack of vision'.

'Why Not Manston?' is a campaign group working to encourage the use of Kent's Manston airport.

Chairman Nicholas Reed said: “The announcementby the Davies Commission that they support new runways at Heathrow and Gatwickshows a woeful lack of vision. Heathrow is already running at 98% capacity, andthe thought of yet more cars trying to reach it is horrifying.

But sitting on the fence over a new hub airport on the Isle of Grain is ridiculous. There is already a major airport at Manston in NE Kent, and it is scandalously underused.

"If use of Manston and Southend Airports was substantially increased, it would completely undermine the case for a new hub airport. Manston is easily reached from London, has excellent facilities, and is an hour’s flying time closer to the continent.

"What’s more, it is already there: no need to wait 15years for its completion.”

Unite backs Davies' report

Britain's biggest aviation union, Unite, has welcomed Sir Howard Davies' interim report on airport expansion but stated that a move away from a single hub airport would put jobs at risk.

The Airports commission has recommended runways to be built at Gatwick and Heathrow.

The commission left out Boris Johnson's proposal of a new airport on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary although it is being considered before the final report is due in 2015.

Unite's officer Oliver Richardson said: "We welcome Sir Howard Davies’ positive approach to airport expansion but any option which involves a move away from a single hub airport would damage the UK’s competitive edge and hit aviation jobs. "

Losing a single hub airport would lead to global businesses reassessing their presence in the UK. Employers could relocate their European headquarters to other European nations like France and Germany which maintain single hub airports in Paris and Frankfurt. The Airports commission has also made the wise decision to kick Boris Johnson’s hare-brained ideas into the long grass. We can now get on with the serious business of devising a workable plan for airport expansion to support jobs and the UK economy."

– Oliver Richardson, Unite national officer

RSPB say Estuary airport would damage environment

The Airports Commission report was released today Credit: PA

The Davies Commission into the future of airports in the South highlighted the environment damage an airport in the Thames Estuary would cause.

The RSPB has said how the tidal mudflats and saltmarsh that line the estuary are one of the most important wildlife habitats in Europe.

In this morning's report, Sir Howard Davies favoured new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick ahead of the Thames, which he acknowledged to be expensive and environmentally damaging.

Chris Corrigan, the RSPB’s London and South East Director said:

“The RSPB, the people of North Kent and South Essex and a growing coalition of concerned groups won’t rest until the estuary is safe from unsuitable development. The spectre of an airport being built in this important landscape has haunted us all for more than 60 years.

“The massive loss of wildlife is just one reason why proposals like an estuary airport should never be allowed. Long established communities must be listened to and the unique landscape of marshes and Saxon churches which inspired Dickens and others must be treasured for future generations."

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