Estuary Airport – More than just runways

The most worrying thing about a lot of the pro-airport lobby is the lack of understanding about what an airport involves in physical and other support services. There is a tendency to look at a map and point to the runways. I have tackled just some of the environmental al technical aspects of the runways previously but now turn my attention to the requirements of a modern airport.

The immediate requirements are for passenger and freight terminals and short, medium and long term car parks – very land intensive. Then other support services such as Fire, Ambulance, Police, Border Controls, immigration and other local council operations such as Social Service. Off-site Hospital services also need to cope with individuals and potentially large groups of wounded or sick. The terminals themselves are large retail and service centres and generate their own requirements for staff and goods. Before anybody gets excited about all these jobs, remember that this has to be paid for and a sizeable chunk falls on local and national government (either through increased expenditure, cuts elsewhere or probably a combination of both. The workforce also needs to live within a reasonable distance of the airport as not all the jobs are well paid.

Off-site there are usually a number of hotels (again with large car parks), and need for a local workforce. At Heathrow it is common for large companies to locate regional, national or even international headquarters close to major airports. But this sort of demand for staff is much more that the local economy could provide and would be dominated by jobs nearer minimum wage.

Now the needs for the airport have to be fitted in with the needs of the passengers. The primary infrastructure will be road – motorway standard connections into existing major road network – A2/M2 and A13/M25 – nobody can argue that there is lots of spare capacity on these roads currently to support this extra traffic and there is likely to be major disruption to the existing roads during construction. There would probably need to be a connection Sheerness and probably Essex. The local road infrastructure would also need to be upgraded – the majority of the road system is not much wider than local country lanes.

The secondary transport network (although it should be first in my opinion) would be rail. Highspeed rail connection to London is the primary requirement (although a feed into a national network would also be welcome) but even here there are major capacity issues with lines into London heavily congested in the peak hours. Promoters of estuary airports talk about providing the rail infrastructure as far as another line but not how that line could cope (and how improvements there would be paid for). Local rail services would also be required for Kent people to access the airport by rail, but this would also have to connect into the existing heavily used commuter networks..

Housing – as mentioned there are a lot of jobs required to support the airport and its local economy, But there will be incredible pressure for additional housing near to the airport. It is estmated that there could be 50,000 to over 100,00 workers – this would mean an additional population of 100,000 to 200,000 that might need to be catered for (when additional family members are included) – leading to more demand on our schools and local services. When we consider the impact of the local proposed development at Lodge Hill for up to 5,000 properties – this gives some indication of the potential impact of this level of housing.

The summary is that this level of development cannot be sustainable in North Kent – even if it was not all located on the Hoo peninsula and spread to the Isle of Sheppey and possibly Essex. The impact on the environment would be one (if not THE) biggest impact on an area in the developed world. But of course airport developers could scale down their proposals, but that would have a major impact on their claimed economic development and how it would be paid for.

My conclusion therefore is NOESTUARYAIRPORT and the quicker it is dismissed we can focus our attention on real local needs and focus our resources on making that happen.

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