Wednesday, 5 September 2012

No mistake; Estuary Airport still on table

The news that Justine Greening has been shunted out of the Department of Transport was met with a metaphorical cheer yesterday from anti-Estuary airport activists from across North Kent. 

As this blog remarked at the time; the appointment was foolhardy and unwise and the result was a year of dithering, snubs, delayed consultations and inept management; Justine simply was never going to be an impartial arbiter on aviation; as someone who took the proposal for Heathrow expansion to a judicial review it was hardly something she could propose.

I suspect that is why the government dithered and delayed on aviation; had she of course accepted a cross-party working group at the get-go she could have denuded the opposition. That however was not her intent; she wanted no expansion and no debate on expansion at Heathrow and as is becoming clear that position is now shifting in the Conservative Party much to the annoyance of Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith

The resulting appointments of Patrick McLouglin and Stephen Hammond into the respective Secretary of State and Under-minister should however be a warning light to anti-Estuary campaigners and a reinforcement of the fact that whilst the Tories got the strategy wrong with Justine Greening MP there is still a clear and present danger of an Estuary Solution.

 Three pieces of evidence point to this outcome:

  • Patrick McLouglin as aviation minister from 1989-1992 has had responsibility for airport expansion before and was considered a safe pair of hands. Indeed; he was open to ideas of expansion both at Heathrow and in other locations; and according to Times today refused to rule out expansion in North Kent.
  • Stephen Hammond has u-turned rather recently on his opposition to Heathrow expansion (see his #TwoFaced switch from here to here); he has expressed the following which should send warning signs

 "I was initially sceptical but am now convinced that the demand for capacity out to 2075 should be met by a new hub with at least five runways. Estimates are bandied around of the cost of the airport and associated infrastructure, which make a new airport look unaffordable. However, we should remember this is inflated by opponents. There are at least two feasible proposals identified and there is appetite to invest in UK infrastructure projects, certainly to the tune of the £30 billion which will be required.

A new airport would need government backing. It would also require some public financial support but with public borrowing costs at the lowest rates for a century, this would represent good value. The reality is that procrastination is now the only real impediment. And with six years of planning phase and six years of build phase, it could be open by 2025"

Put the bubbly on ice; the Estuary Airport isnt gone; it could be argued that the #TwoFacedTories are just changing tactics and faces to make it look more legitimate and are about to put both options on the table 

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