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Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber supports an Estuary Airport on the Isle of Grain

By Clare Freeman

His musicals have run in the West End for decades, but a British composer would close the curtains on Heathrow airport in favour of an estuary airport.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the musicals Cats and Phantom of the Opera, said in an article published in Friday's Evening Standard that the Isle of Grain is the right place for a hub airport.

He argues that "as the success of the Olympics and the regeneration of the Docklands has shown, we must look eastwards" and seriously consider Boris Island as the solution to Britain's need for airport expansion.

How architect Lord Foster's vision for an airport at Grain in the Thames Estuary could have looked

He strongly opposes developing Stansted as "too much of the Essex and Suffolk countryside has been adversely affected by overflying" and that Gatwick "blights far too much of the Weald".

Sir Lloyd Webber wrote that he recently visited the Hoo Peninsula and was much taken with it; "the whole of the Hoo peninsula has an eerie, spooky feeling about it with its distant background of oil refinery chimneys, huge power stations and striding pylons".

The Isle of Grain from the Medway estuary showing Grain Tower (left) and Grain power station (right).

"But despite its pleasing sense of desolation," he continued, "it’s not exactly Britain’s finest landscape."

Despite appreciating the Gothic architecture of the churches and the pubs which are in "glorious time warp", he said "the truth is, if we have to find a place to put a massive hub airport, this is it".

St Helen's Church in Cliffe

He accepted there would be vocal objections from the RSPB but said the peninsula is a "flat piece of land right by the sea with very little, apart from the fact that you expect to see the occasional marsh ghoul, to recommend it visually".

Sir Lloyd Webber noted that an estuary airport would create massive job opportunities, justify major road and rail investment and revitalize the corridor between the peninsula and London.

He believes that the consequent closure of Heathrow that would have to happen to allow an estuary airport to be economically viable, would provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Referring to a detailed study by Jones Lang LaSalle, he said the develop of Heathrow would generate 80,000 new homes and 90,000 jobs.

View from The Pinnacle over Cliffe Pools which will be affected by the proposed Estuary Airport.

He concluded his article by saying: "the environmental and economic gains of shutting Heathrow and building a new airport on the Isle of Grain are so overwhelming that they must outweigh the short-term nature of Heathrow’s outmoded vested interests".

"We should follow the example of so many other countries and build an airport for today and tomorrow.

"With apologies to local resident Jools Holland and his neighbours The Isle of Grain is the right place."

The full article is published on his website.

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