Now it’s 4 runways for Stansted... but campaigners urge public not to panic

THE race to solve the UK’s aviation crisis is hotting up following the emergence of a series of leaked proposals – including radical plans to transform Stansted into a four-runway mega hub capable of catering for up to 150million passengers a year.

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion’s economics adviser Brian Ross told the Reporter while the group was not complacent about the developments, there was no reason for people to panic over a proposal he believed was unrealistic and financially unviable.

The plans, which include building three new 4km-long runways and a new terminal, are the brainwave of architectural firm Make Architects, founded by the creator of ‘The Gherkin’ in London.

Ken Shuttleworth believes his vision, which would also see the creation of a Crossrail link from Stansted to Stratford to reduce train journey times to the capital to 25 minutes, is the only viable solution and would be easier, quicker and less expensive than an alternative �50billion scheme to build a new transport hub in the Thames Estuary, dubbed ‘Boris Island’.

Similar alternatives to build four runways at Luton Airport and another so-called solution to create a new airport hub in Oxfordshire have also been unveiled by other architects – in what is expected to be the start of a wave of lobbying attempts ahead of a final decision by the Government in three years’ time.

It follows the announcement last month that former Audit Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies has been commissioned to conduct an independent review into the UK’s aviation capacity, due for completion in the summer of 2015.

MP Sir Alan Haselhurst said it was “nonsense” to suggest expanding Stansted was the only feasible option.

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“If that were true why has an independent review been commissioned to look at all the alternatives on the table? That is just the architects’ opinion,” he explained.

“Nevertheless, we must steel ourselves against all sorts of ideas that will be going around over the next three years because it will be open house with this review being set up.”

He also said the �8billion crossrail suggestion was not the answer, adding if there was that sort of money floating around he would rather it was spent on improving the mainline so that all passengers could benefit.

Mr Ross said SSE “was not particularly worried” about the proposal and added that the group did not want to “cry wolf” by panicking people when there was likely to be many more suggestions unveiled between now and 2015.

“We do not think there is any credibility in this plan because the numbers simply don’t add up. Anyone can draw plans for an airport on the back of an envelope and most proposals are not to be taken seriously.

“When architects are short of work they have a habit of designing castles in the air. They’d be better off spending their spare time learning some basic financial arithmetic.”

But Mr Shuttleworth has argued the advantages of expanding Stansted are its “very good” transport links with the M11 and railway, “fairly low” population density and that it is closer to the majority of people in the UK, not just London.

Further details on building timescales, construction costs and the architectural design are yet to emerge but the firm said it was continuing to work with engineers to investigate the proposal in greater detail.

Other plans on the table include those put forward by Foster + Partners and global giant Gensler, each looking to create a new hub in the Thames Estuary, while last week Gatwick announced new plans for a second runway to double its capacity to 70million passengers a year.