London’s plan would close Heathrow

LONDON — Mayor Boris Johnson said Monday he will submit plans to close the capital’s Heathrow Airport because it is too noisy and replace it with a four-runway hub in one of three locations east or north of the city.

The government could buy Heathrow for about $22.6 billion and use the 3,000-acre site to build 100,000 homes for up to 250,000 people, creating an entirely new borough that would help ease a national housing shortage and provide about 40,000 jobs, the mayor said at a press conference in London.

Johnson said Europe’s busiest airport should be replaced with a hub at one of two undeveloped sites in the Thames estuary or at an expanded Stansted airport 35 miles north of London. The mayor said he will submit the proposals to the government-appointed Davies Commission on UK airport capacity later this week.


‘‘It’s true that we have squandered decades and that other countries are now eating our lunch, but we still have time to get this right,’’ Johnson said at the briefing at City Hall.

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Heathrow, operating close to the capacity of its two runways after attracting 69.9 million passengers in 2012, isn’t suitable for more growth because of noise, pollution, and congestion issues, he said.

‘‘To build a third runway in the west of London would be completely the wrong thing and to build a fourth runway would be catastrophic,’’ Johnson said in an interview.

Residents of two west London boroughs close to Heathrow voted almost 3 to 1 in May against building a third runway at the airport. The leader of Hillingdon Council, Ray Puddifoot, a Conservative like Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron, said the result was a reminder of local sentiment.

Johnson said that of the three proposals he’s recommending, one for an airport on the Isle of Grain, or Hoo peninsula, on the north Kent coast probably has ‘‘the edge.’’


The site is close enough to London to provide fast access by rail but would have a minimal impact on the local population because planes could take off and land over the sea. Its location near a new deep-sea container port would also offer scope for a ‘‘future logistics heartland for the UK,’’ he said.

The mayor said that an outer-estuary site, dubbed ‘‘Boris Island’’ when he first proposed it, would remove all noise pollution concerns and give unfettered operational freedom.

Expansion of single-runway Stansted airport is attractive because it entails building on existing infrastructure in an area with a relatively sparse population that lacks the wildlife issues of the estuary options, Johnson said.

Johnson reckons a new hub would support 375,000 new jobs by 2050 and add $1.12 trillion to the value of British goods and services. Heathrow provides about 76,000 direct jobs and is reckoned to employ the same number again in support industries.

Heathrow Airport Ltd. will present its ideas to a commission on Wednesday.