Engineers today unveiled ambitious plans to create a new £39 billion airport for London – in the middle of the North Sea.
Construction firm Beckett Rankine published details of their proposal for an airport on a man-made island 1.8 miles off the east coast of Kent on underwater banks called Goodwin Sands.
The site, which has long been inaccessible for vessels sailing in from the English Channel, is being promoted as the answer to London’s need for a new hub airport.
It could rival designs put forward by London Mayor Boris Johnson for a floating airport in the Thames Estuary that has been dubbed ‘Boris Island’.
Plans for the site show a state-of-the-art terminal building and four runways connected to London by a high-speed underground railway.
The hazardous sands are said to the perfect location as there pose no environmental, economical or social risk.
Designers say the four major runways will sit 1.5km apart, allowing them to operate independently.
And unlike the other solutions connected to the land, this alternative will allow take-off and landing over water, enabling unrestricted 24-hour operations.
Engineers say the development will not require the demolition of homes or displacement of residents and there are no concerns of damage to conservation and wildlife.
Beckett Rankine director Tim Beckett said the proposal was the most “sustainable solution” yet to be put forward.
He said: “We believe that an offshore hub airport is the only option that can realistically provide the four new, independent runways that research reveals London needs.
“If the Davies Commission endorses the long-term requirement for a new, four runway hub airport for London, then locating it at Goodwin will have the least adverse social and environmental impact of any option.
“It is certainly the most sustainable solution available.
“Creating a new airport for London presents a major regenerative opportunity.
“We believe that East Kent is an area that could benefit most from the boost of new jobs and economic uplift.
“The location of an airport offshore is an alternative that crowded island nation’s are turning to across the globe.
“It is the solution recently adopted at South Korea’s new Incheon Airport and at Kansai Airport in Japan and in Hong Kong.
“Since the 1970s there have been several proposals for locating a new airport in the Thames Estuary. These include proposals for Cliffe and Lord Foster’s plans at the Isle of Grain.
“All the sites within the estuary have significant disadvantages.
“Each proposal is located in at least one internationally designated, environmentally sensitive area.
“All the sites either interfere with shipping lanes or else are too small to provide four runways sufficiently spaced for independent operation.
“The land connected sites do not provide take off and landing over water which ought to be the principal benefit of a new offshore airport since it enables 24-hour operations, maximising utilisation of the airport.
“Goodwin Airport has none of these disadvantages.”
The proposed site is within UK territorial waters and would be owned by the Crown Estate.
Proposed plans show how the Goodwin Sands location would offer excellent transport links with a 40-minute high-speed rail connection to London via the existing HS1 line.
It is currently also accessible by road via the A2 and M20 and there is also plans for Eurostar connections to Europe.
The Mayor of London’s Aviation Adviser, Daniel Moylan, said he had been encouraged by proposals for the new airport.
He said: “The Mayor has been encouraging proposals for a new airport to the east of London.
“This proposal is welcome as a contribution to a critical national debate and as a demonstration that a new airport is feasible and deliverable.
“The arguments for the construction of a new hub airport in the UK are overwhelming and this proposal offers one option of how to build it.
“We now urgently need to recognise that a new hub airport is the answer to our aviation capacity problems and press ahead with considering the best way to deliver that airport.”
The barmy island plan is the latest alternative to be put forward as a solution to Britain’s growing need for greater airport capacity in the south east of the country.
London mayor Boris Johnson has already openly backed the bid for “London Britannia Airport” designed by Norman Foster to be placed on the Thames estuary.
Plans for the airport on an island in the Thames were unveiled in September this year and include four floating runways tethered to the river bed.
Plans to extend Britain’s busiest airport Heathrow were put forward in the same month as part of the government’s review into airport expansion in the South East.
Transport experts fear Britain could miss out on crucial revenue from tourists and flight taxes if major carriers move their European base to rivals on the continent.