Boris backs down on airport plan
PUBLISHED: 09:25 13 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:16 23 August 2010
MAYOR of London Boris Johnson has assured campaigners that he will not push to build an airport on Cliffe marshes. He came under heavy criticism from environmental campaigners in February when he said the government should re-examine plans for an airport
MAYOR of London Boris Johnson has assured campaigners that he will not push to build an airport on Cliffe marshes.
He came under heavy criticism from environmental campaigners in February when he said the government should re-examine plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary.
Plans for an airport at Cliffe were axed five years earlier, mainly due to the risk of birdstrike in the area and the sensitive sites on the north Kent Marshes.
The Reporter quizzed the Mayor about his feasibility study and plan dubbed 'Boris Island' when he appeared in Bromley for his first People's Question Time last week.
Speaking at Bromley Civic Centre, last Thursday he said: "It is not an option. I know that there are anxieties about this.
"I simply have absolutely no intention to do anything that would interfere with some of the sites that have been mentioned in north Kent.
"We are not looking at the Isle of Sheppey, we are not looking at Cliffe. We are looking at other solutions that would not impinge on north Kent in the way that some Labour MPs are trying to claim."
Last month transport secretary Geoff Hoon spoke in the House of Commons about fears the Cliffe airport plan was being re-investigated by the London Mayor.
He branded the plans as 'not practical' for the same reasons why it was rejected five years ago, referring to the scheme as 'Boris Island'
At the event Johnson answered questions from the 600-strong audience on topics including transport, the environment and the 2012 Olympics. On arrival he was greeted by enthusiastic applause but just minutes into his opening speech he was heckled by a guitar-playing protester. But the singer was only allowed to strum a few bars before he was drowned out by boos from the audience and escorted out by police.
The North Kent Marshes are home to a multitude of wildlife including many rare birds. They are designated as a Special Protection Area under EU directive and a Wetland of International Importance under the RAMSAR convention.
Despite Mr Johnson's claims there are still many groups including the RSPB that do not want to see an airport of any form anywhere in the Thames Estuary.
Spokesperson for the RSPB Paul Outhwaite said: "The RSPB doesn't believe that it's possible to build an airport in the Thames Estuary that isn't environmentally damaging. If he really doesn't want to do any damage to the environment then he shouldn't even be talking about building an airport in the Thames Estuary. As far as we are concerned it has already been looked into in huge detail and a feasibility study may show that it is possible but it won't prove that it won't do any environmental damage. We should stop spending money on feasibility studies and start looking for alternative solutions."
Many of the Thames Estuary airport plan's critics favour an extension of Kent International Airport at Manston but Mr Johnson says it is not a strong contender.
He added: "Manston has been looked at in the past as far as I know but there are commercial issues about whether it would be a viable runner."