The Sinking of Boris Island

09 Sep
September 9, 2014

FunafutiSpare a thought for the 10,000 people who live on the remote Pacific island of Tuvalu. The country’s highest point is just 15 metres above sea level and so, as climate change results in rising sea levels, it’s only a matter of time before the beautiful islands disappear without trace.

Now, it may only exist in the minds of architects, planners and the London Mayor, but another potentially beautiful island sunk without trace this week. Slightly closer to home than the Polynesian nation, it was the Airports Commission rather than global warming that did for Boris Island, the proposed site of the answer to London’s desperate need for more airport capacity.

The commission said that after a detailed study it had concluded that the proposal for a new four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary had “substantial disadvantages that collectively outweigh its potential benefits”.

The commission chairman, Sir Howard Davies, said: “The economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time‑consuming to surmount. Even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost £70bn to £90bn, with much greater public expenditure involved than in other options – probably some £30bn to £60bn in total.”

Naturally (as it was his pet project) the Mayor was less than impressed with the commission’s verdict which leaves just Heathrow and Gatwick expansions as the viable options. Boris said: “In one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century and consigned their work to the long list of vertically filed reports on aviation expansion that are gathering dust on a shelf in Whitehall.

“Gatwick is not a long-term solution and Howard Davies must explain to the people of London how he can possibly envisage that an expansion of Heathrow, which would create unbelievable levels of noise, blight and pollution, is a better idea than a new airport to the east of London that he himself admits is visionary.”

So, it looks like the plan is dead in the water. Or perhaps Boris can take heart from Tuvalu’s infrastructure? Despite its size and relative poverty, the Funafuti International Airport offers travel to and from Tuvalu with carriers including Air Pacific. If they can find a way to build a decent airport on their remote island, it surely can’t be beyond the wit of man to find a spot for a new airport in London? Can it?

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