Planners call for Heathrow to 'retire'

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The Independent Online

A top campaign group has called for Heathrow to be closed and a new airport built to replace it on the other side of London.

The west London airport should be "retired", the Town and Country Planning Association says. Its history has been "a series of minor planning disasters that together make up one of the country's truly great planning catastrophes", say the authors of Heathrow: A Retirement Plan.

The report opposes plans by the current owner, BAA, to expand the site. Another airport should be built instead on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary, it says.

"Heathrow is 60 years old this week and there should be a plan to gradually phase it out," said Sir Peter Hall, the president of the TCPA and co-author of the report. "We believe that the Government looked briefly at [building an airport in the Thames Estuary] three years ago and rejected it, but we don't believe they gave it serious enough consideration. The Government is going to face a crisis in air capacity in south-east England. This is the best solution by a long way."

Building a new airport would also ensure that suitable rail links to European destinations could be created, helping to ease environmental concerns, Sir Peter said. He added that he hoped the Government would consider the paper.

However, a Department for Transport spokesman said: "The Government brought out its aviation White Paper in 2003 and that said that it would support Heathrow and Stansted expansion if emission problems could be sorted out. Before that, there were a whole range of options and consultations."

BAA plans to build a third runway but faces opposition from a number of quarters, including local residents who are concerned about noise levels.

However, such organisations as the Future Heathrow campaign argue that the British economy will suffer badly if the airport is not allowed to expand and compete with other European hubs.