Statement by Lord Foster

19 Jul 2013

Following the submission of Foster + Partners’ proposals, Lord Foster commented:

“The infrastructure of a nation can never be taken for granted. Only for so long can we trade on an inheritance from the past. Heathrow, with its military origins, is a case in point. There is a limit to how much it can be patched up and enlarged – even for the needs of today, let alone tomorrow – and would you ever choose a location which dictates flight paths over the heart of London?

We have reached a point where we must act, in the tradition of those Victorian forebears and create afresh – to invest now and safeguard future generations. Why should we fall behind when we could secure a competitive edge?

The choice is not about time or money. A new four-runway true hub airport in the Thames Estuary, at £24 billion, costs less to build than two extra runways at Heathrow and can be realised on a similar timescale. Our funding model shows that it could pay for itself within a decade of opening.

In the context of what we as architects have achieved, with our UK-based engineering colleagues, in Hong Kong and Beijing, our proposals are not even overly ambitious. They are cautiously well considered and based on a wealth of well proven experience.

But our proposal did not start as an airport – it was part of a wider remit. London, like New York and other centres of economic influence, has to face up to the threat of rising water levels triggered by global warming. An integral part of our long-term proposal is future flood protection for the nation’s capital and its eastward expansion, which is also a source of tidal energy.

The project also maximises the existing investments made in High Speed 1 by utilising its spare capacity to create fast, efficient access to the airport from London and continental Europe. By connecting the airport to Crossrail and High Speed 2, we can open up routes for the whole of the UK. The site’s close proximity to the South East’s major ports can give Britain’s manufacturing industry a vital strategic advantage in terms of freight distribution.

We are not proposing the best new international hub in the world as an alternative to the existing stock of secondary and regional airports in the UK. On the contrary, given the current pattern of the industry’s growth, it would work in parallel with them.

Heathrow may be in the worst site for an airport, but it is a perfect location for new homes and clean technology-based research facilities. The opportunities it presents as a green field site are boundless – for starters why not Britain’s answer to Silicon Valley? Its proximity to London virtually guarantees its long-term development potential, aside from the environmental and security benefits that also follow from removing its blight as an airport.”