Heathrow and Boris clash over airport’s future

Marion Dakers
HEATHROW has been drawn into a political dogfight over its role as a magnet for business, with the Mayor of London claiming a new town and technology hub on the site of the airport could lift the city’s economy.

Meanwhile, Heathrow has argued that firms based nearby would downsize rather than adapt to a new airport elsewhere in London, as Boris Johnson contends.

The mayor yesterday made his latest attempt to build support for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, claiming that Heathrow could be transformed into a town generating £7.5bn of economic benefits a year. He launched a report arguing that a revamped Heathrow site could create 90,000 jobs and homes for 190,000 people.

“Relocating Heathrow would bring benefits to both east and west London and it is impossible to get one without the other,” said the mayor.

But Heathrow today hit back with its own report contending that businesses based around the airport would cut jobs rather than simply move their operations to a new site.

The airport directly employs around 76,000 people, rising above 100,000 when surrounding firms are included.

The Airports Commission will decide whether to keep a Thames Estuary airport in the running this autumn, before a final recommendation in 2015.


■ A report for the Mayor set out three new uses for Heathrow, and suggested that a mixture of all of them could create £7.5bn for London’s economy.

■ All of the options depend on Heathrow closing and a new airport opening to the east of London, which lies in the hands of the government after the 2015 election.

■ One option is an education and technology hub, with Heathrow’s terminals used to house businesses and two university campuses.

■ The second option is a town, similar to Milton Keynes, with 47,000 homes centred around a retail hub in the airport buildings.

■ Option three would see a dormitory town built on the site of Heathrow, with high-density homes aimed at central London commuters.