11 November 2002

£3bn 'black hole' in London airport plan

By David Sapsted

A damning report into proposals to build a new London airport on one of the country's most important wildlife sites says the Government has seriously underestimated the cost, impact and timescale of the project.

The report, to be published today by a leading firm of airport consultants, says building a new airport on the Kent marshes would cost at least £3 billion more than the Government has estimated.

In its 150-page report, Mott MacDonald also claims that up to 110,000 new homes will be needed if an airport is constructed around Cliffe.

It says also that the Government estimate of having the airport ready to open by 2011 is completely unrealistic and takes no account of Britain's protracted planning process, let alone likely legal challenges because of the area's importance as a protected European bird sanctuary.

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the leader of Kent county council, which commissioned the report, said yesterday: "Cliffe was always the Government's 'blue skies' thinking and Mott MacDonald's report now blows this away as a serious option."

The report also claims that the massive earthworks that would be needed across the marshland could have serious implications for flood protection in London and the Thames estuary.

Expansion of the existing airport in Stansted, Essex, is regarded by many as the best option for meeting increasing air travel needs.