Closing Heathrow would be an 'economic disaster'

Closing Heathrow would be an 'economic disaster'

Closing Heathrow and creating a hub airport in the Thames estuary would be an “economic disaster” from which it would take 20 years to recover.

The claim comes from David Sleath, chief executive of property giant Segro, which has £1.2 billion of assets directly linked to Heathrow.

He said that businesses would be damaged and tens of thousands of jobs put at risk.

Sleath told the Sunday Telegraph that siting any new airport east of London would also threaten London City Airport with closure.

“Delivery of additional capacity at Heathrow is going to be much quicker than anything that could be done by building a new airport and also much cheaper. It is far superior,” he said.

He argued that the implications of closure would “be very significant”.

“It would have a social and economic impact on the whole of the west London area. Something like 76,000 people are directly employed by the airport and 100,000 indirectly.”

Segro is preparing a submission to the government’s Airports Commission calling for Heathrow to be expanded. Any other solutions, such as developing Gatwick and Stansted, would not work as well.

A survey of Segro’s hundreds of business clients is also likely to show high levels of business concern over the uncertainty the aviation review is creating.

“Uncertainty is extremely unhelpful,” Sleath said. “It is important to us as a major investor in the area that we have certainty and clarity around future strategy.

“Anything that throws doubt upon the long-term future of Heathrow is going to weaken our confidence about investing in the area.”

In an article for Estates Gazette to be published this week, Sleath says that the impact on land values would be huge if Heathrow were shut down.

“The obvious location for the UK’s hub airport is Heathrow,” he writes. “Businesses in west London and the Thames Valley have based themselves here precisely because of [the] transport links, which leads to further infrastructure investment.

“You certainly wouldn’t build Britain’s new airport in the Thames Estuary or at Stansted, unless you wanted to make it as inaccessible as possible for the rest of the UK.”

Businesses might relocate to Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam airports rather than move to the Thames estuary, he argued.

Heathrow Airport Holdings is expected to produce its blueprint for the future of the airport next week.

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