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London snubs Mayor's plans

FURTHER doubts were raised over the feasibility of an airport in the Thames Estuary yesterday, as London&rsquo;s Chamber of Commerce put out figures showing the City&rsquo;s scepticism over the project.<br /><br />A survey of London firms found that 63 per cent of those questioned did not think the airport could be built within the next twenty years, while just 28 per cent said it could be built in time.<br /><br />Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the Chamber, said: &ldquo;London needs extra airport capacity to remain economically competitive but businesses here don&rsquo;t think the Thames Estuary could provide it any time soon.<br /><br />&ldquo;The Mayor might not like it, but it would be far quicker and more cost effective to build an extra runway at Heathrow airport,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />Mayor Boris Johnson has been pushing for a Thames airport, the so-called &ldquo;Heathrow-on-Sea,&rdquo; rather than a controversial expansion at Heathrow.<br /><br />The government gave the green light to a third runway at the hub airport earlier this year, but the Tories oppose it, and will mothball the plans if they come into power.<br /><br />Business bodies from the Chamber to the CBI insist more airport capacity is needed in London for it to remain a world financial centre, and Heathrow-on-Sea&rsquo;s &pound;40bn price tag dwarfs the projected &pound;9bn of expanding Heathrow.<br /><br />Johnson commissioned Douglas Oakervee, the engineer who planned Hong Kong&rsquo;s island airport, to draw up blueprints for the estuary airport.<br /><br />The former government chief scientist is now conducting a more detailed study into its feasibility, which is due out soon.