There are better alternatives to a Thames estuary airport

There are many economic and environmental reasons why the Thames estuary is not a suitable location for a new hub airport.

These reasons - from the serious threat of bird strikes to the SS Richard Montgomery, packed full of explosives - have been well-debated.

Given this, it is no surprise that the idea has not found favour with the public, the major airlines or MPs. Only recently a survey by Ipsos MORI disclosed that only 16% of MPs support the idea.

But let us consider for a moment, what would be the impact of such an airport on Kent and Medway?

One of the proposals is for a four runway airport, operating 24 hours a day and handling up to 150 million passengers a year. Such a vast airport, which would be twice as large as Heathrow, would require significant infrastructure and transport links to support it.

It is suggested that this could be achieved through linking the airport to the existing high speed rail service. Whilst there may currently be spare capacity on the train line – Eurostar only uses 40% of it – there is interest from several European train operators in running new passenger and freight services in the next few years.

In short, new train lines would have to be built, carving up our communities and the countryside. It is more than likely we would also witness a repeat of the challenges seen over the High Speed two route as such lines would pass through parts of Kent and Essex.

And it would require major road access. To avoid congestion the M2 would have to be upgraded or new motorways built to handle such demand.

Airports also rely heavily on supporting services and industries and Kent could only accommodate them through building vast new industrial estates.

An airport of this proportion would require at least 70,000 employees, which is even more than those who are unemployed in Kent and Medway. It would result in an influx of new arrivals and where would all these people live?

Clearly it would require new homes, schools and hospitals, piling pressure on existing services.

To put the scale of this into some context, Medway’s annual housing target is 815 dwellings per year up to 2028, far less than the thousands of homes that would be required to support a new airport.

Such developments could threaten our existing green areas such as Capstone Valley and the North Downs Way, located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

On top of this is the environmental impact on those living in the areas surrounding the airport who will see increased noise, light and air pollution.

Supporters of the scheme say that it is worth sacrificing Kent and Medway for the thousands of jobs it would create. But such jobs would be decades away and not the jobs we need to create now and that are being created through our regeneration schemes.

If an airport in the Thames estuary was allowed to go ahead it would irrevocably alter Kent and Medway. I do not believe that this is the solution to our aviation needs. There are much better alternatives which will be considered as part of the Government’s review.