Published on Monday, May 13, 2013

Shut Heathrow and build houses, says Mayor's aviation advisor

London mayor Boris Johnson's aviation advisor wants to shut Heathrow and turn the site into a new London borough with housing for 200,000 people.

Councillor Daniel Moylan said it was a scandal that the housing crisis in London was so severe that people were living in sheds in back gardens while Heathrow was taking up an area the size of the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Moylan, who is campaigning for London's hub airport to be shifted from west London to the east of the capital, said transforming the Heathrow site into a residential area would create 35,000 jobs.

"I have told Colin Matthews (Heathrow Ltd Airport Holdings chief executive) that he could make more money as a property developer than operating an airport, especially with the new landing charges announced by the Civil Aviation Authority," said Moylan. He claimed the land could be developed profitably, especially as Heathrow already has three tube stations and a rail link to Paddington.

Speaking at the Advantage Travel Centres' annual conference in Malaga on the day that the House of Commons Transport Select Committee recommended adding at least one additional runway at Heathrow, Moylan said: "The idea of building at Heathrow is politically unacceptable and far more costly than the committee is willing to accept. The committee needs to wake up."

While he acknowledged that it would be possible to "shoehorn" a third runway into an area north of Heathrow, Moylan said it would take at least five years to plan and another four to five years to build. "It would be full before it was finished," he said.

The Select Committee dismissed Boris Johnson's proposal for a new hub airport to be built in the Thames estuary, an idea which is being championed by Moylan. However, he revealed that the London Mayor is open to the idea of Stansted being developed into a four-runway airport instead. "Boris is flexible about where to build a new hub," he said. "He would be perfectly happy with Stansted as a four-runway airport; he is actually quite attracted to Stansted.

"If that's where everyone says the hub should be, Boris would say, that's 98% of what I wanted, I am chuffed with that."

Moylan said he was also open to the suggestion that Birmingham could be turned into London's hub airport. "With the right transport links, I would look at supporting a four-runway Birmingham Airport, he said. "If Birmingham could come out with a bold vision we will look at it seriously."


The Davies Commission, set up by the government to examine all proposals for expanding air capacity in the south east, will deliver its interim findings later this year but a full report won't be published until after the next general election.

In the meantime, Moylan said a study into the feasibility of creating a hub in the Thames estuary would report its initial findings at the end of July and a full report would be available by October.

Moylan, an Oxbridge graduate and son of a London bus driver, admitted there were technical problems with building in the Thames estuary, including how to relocate thousands of wild birds who would be displaced by the airport. However, he said the fact that the Thames estuary gets three times more fog than Heathrow should not affect flights. "Airplanes pretty much land automatically these days, don't they?" he said. "I think it's much safer that way." In February, dozens of flights were cancelled at Heathrow and London City due to poor visibility.

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