Mayor says London should follow Denver’s flight path

Posted: 7 April 2014 | Mayor of London | No comments yet

The Mayor of Denver and representatives of the mega six runway hub airport in his city arrive in the UK where they will be quizzed by the Mayor of London regarding their experience of successfully relocating a major international airport…

Boris Johnson

The Mayor of Denver and representatives of the mega six runway hub airport in his city arrive in the UK today (7 April) where they will be quizzed by the Mayor of London regarding their experience of successfully relocating a major international airport. In a scenario with startling parallels to the current debate regarding the future of Heathrow airport, twenty years ago officials from the ‘mile high city’ were also thrashing out how best to provide new aviation capacity.   

In a meeting with the Mayor today officials from Denver will describe how in the midst of a law suit against the city brought by local residents incensed by aircraft noise pollution, and despite opposition from major airlines who claimed demand for a new airport was non-existent, they successfully relocated the airport to a new site outside the city with room for 12 runways. While in London the team from Denver will also host a seminar where they will discuss the relocation of their airport, and they are expected to meet with officials from the Davies Commission who are considering where best to locate new aviation capacity in the southeast.

In 1989 the residents of Denver voted to relocate Stapleton International Airport. The airport was unable to accommodate new airlines due to limited gate space, the layout of runways meant the airport struggled to deal with uniquely challenging wind and weather patterns at that location and local residents had successfully sued the airport for noise pollution. United and Continental airlines dominated services from Stapleton and opposed a move claiming there was no demonstrated need for a new airport, and that costs of moving would drive landing fees and airport charges too high.

Despite airline opposition the new Denver International Airport opened in 1995. It is now the largest airport by size in the United States and an economic powerhouse. The airport employs over 32,000 people and supports a further 40,000 jobs. It is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado and is estimated to generate over 26 billion dollars a year for the state and regional economy. Denver has a population of 2.9m people and is the twentieth largest city in the United States. By 2020 the population of the city is expected to have increased to 3.2m people.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “West London is bursting at the seams and there is a reason that a third runway has not been built at Heathrow in the last 50 years, which is that it would be in entirely the wrong place. We are world leaders in aviation and people are always going to want to fly to this city. But the hub airport we have got is in the wrong place. So we should move Heathrow, other cities like Denver have done it and there is no reason why we should not do it too.”

The aviation policy team working for the Mayor of London have identified the many parallels between the situation at Stapleton International Airport in the nineteen eighties and the situation in London today. Not least the potential for redevelopment of a former airport site into thousands of new homes and jobs. In Denver an entire new urban neighbourhood has been built on the former Stapleton international airport site. Planning the neighbourhood began six years before the airport was relocated. Largely private investment has been helping to build 12,000 new homes, 10m sq ft of office space, six new schools and 1,000 acres of public parks.

Last week the Mayor of London released a report setting out several options for redevelopment of the Heathrow airport site if a new hub airport in the south east is eventually agreed by the Government and Heathrow airport relocates. It concluded that redeveloping the site could potentially support 90,000 new jobs and provide homes for 190,000 people.

The Mayor wants his report to kickstart an open, honest and evidence based debate on the potential of the Heathrow site to provide homes and jobs, in the face of the immense challenge posed by an increase in population for the capital, which is forecast to be equivalent to adding the population of Glasgow and Birmingham combined by 2030.

When the Mayor meets with officials from Denver today he is expected to ask how London can learn lessons from Denver. But his counterpart will also add several items to the agenda. He is keen to learn from London’s experiences of bidding for and hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, plus he is also expected to wish to discuss the ‘tech’ boom taking place in London where nearly 35,000 companies now operate in that sector, employing around 156,000 people.

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