'"Boris Island" airport unnecessary'

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
January 24, 2012, 5:10 PM GMT+0

47% Britons oppose Thames Estuary airport idea, 23% support; 49% say UK 'safe' without it

Less than a quarter of Britons support the idea of building a new London airport in the Thames Estuary, and only around one in four people feels that Britain’s status as an international travel hub would be threatened if airport capacity was not increased in this way, our poll has shown.

It has been proposed that a new airport should be built on the Thames Estuary, in response to fears that Britain’s status as an international hub has become threatened due to a shortage in airport capacity in the South East.

However, doubts and criticisms over its usefulness, necessity and environmental impact remain.

  • 47% oppose the new airport being built on the Thames Estuary, while 23% support the idea
  • 49% disagree that Britain would lose its status as an international hub if capacity is not increased (27% believe that the nation's international hub status will be compromised if capacity is not increased)

Environmental threats?

Looking at the environmental threat that some feel the new airport would pose: Britons are more likely to feel that any environmental damage caused by the project would 'outweigh' the economic benefits it would purport to bring – but women are more likely to be worried about the environmental cost than men, who in turn are more likely to back the economic benefits of the plan.

  • 39% in total say that any environmental damage that would be caused by the building of a new airport would outweigh any economic benefits
  • 21% disagree, and say that any economic benefits would outweigh any environmental damage
  • 24% feel that neither of these options comes closest to their view on the proposal
  • Men are more amenable to women of the economic benefits (28% feel they will outweigh any environmental damage, compared to 14% of women who feel the same)
  • Women are more likely to feel that the environmental damage will outweigh the economic benefits (43% say this compared to 34% of men)


From our list of methods which could be used to increase airport capacity in the South East, we actually found that 1 in 4 people thinks that airport capacity in the South East does not to be expanded at all.

Other popular options (although none with a majority) include the expansion of the region's existing airports, and opening a third runway at current major London hub, Heathrow. Our poll shows that support for allowing more night flights into Heathrow is low, however.

  • 29% think that expanding existing London airports would be a better way to expand airport capacity in the South East
  • 16% would favour a third runway at Heathrow, and just 15% say building an airport in the Estuary is the best solution
  • A full 25% do not think that airport capacity needs to be expanded in the South East at all
  • A strong minority (39%) oppose the suggestion of more night flights at Heathrow
  • While a third (33%) says that they support this alternative (27% don't know)

Protecting Britain… or Boris?

The airport project has earned the nickname 'Boris Island' due to Mayor of London Boris Johnson's outspoken support for plan. Calling it 'great for London', he has said that as long as there was the 'political will and energy', construction could be quick and on budget. Critics, however, counter that building the new site will take 'decades', won't help improve the existing infrastructure to and from central London, and risks damaging the environment.

According to our poll, older people feel more convinced that the proposed new airport is more of a political tactic to increase Mayor Boris Johnson’s popularity ahead of the Mayoral Election, than about providing a real solution to increasing air capacity.

  • 31% of people aged 40 to 59, and 31% of over 60s say this is the case, while a slightly lesser 25% of people aged 25 to 39 agree, along with 12% of 18 to 24 year olds
  • In general though, the strongest minority (30%) feel that the proposal is as much about increasing airport capacity in the UK as it is a political tactic for the Mayor

See the survey details and full results here (pages 7-9)