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This note deals only with the proposals put forward by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson for a new hub airport located on an artificial island in the Thames estuary. For information on the historical background to the idea of building a new airport at or in the Thames estuary, as well as the current proposals for the Isle of Grain site, see SN4920.

For many years there has been an ongoing debate about the amount of capacity needed to meet future air travel demand in the UK – and in particular in the South East of England, near London. While many short term solutions have been proposed to increase capacity, in the longer term more runway space will be required if one accepts the economic case for aviation growth. A third runway at Heathrow and second runways at Stansted and Gatwick would increase capacity at existing airports, but proposals for all of these sites have met with fierce resistance from local communities and environmental campaigners.

In light of this, the idea of building a completely new airport at or in the Thames estuary gained some traction. The most notable proponent of such an idea is the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Since 2008 he has proposed and promoted the idea of a new hub airport located on an artificial island in the Thames estuary. Dubbed ‘Boris Island’ by the press, the idea has been repeatedly rebuffed by governments in the past and was met with a cool response from the Coalition Government.

The Airports Commission, under the chairmanship of Sir Howard Davies, was set up in September 2012 and tasked with making recommendations as to the timing and scale of any future airport capacity. It will not publish its final report and recommendations until after the 2015 General Election but in December 2013 it published an interim report dismissing a new outer Thames estuary airport but indicating that additional analysis would be undertaken into a new airport on the Isle of Grain. In September 2014 it announced that no Thames Estuary option would be included in the Commission’s shortlist of options.

Information on the other airports in the South East and London can be found in HC Library Note SN2893; and there are separate notes on London Heathrow, SN1136 and airports in the UK outside of the South East and London, SN323.

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