Increasing airport capacity is vital but both the Estuary and the Constellation airport ideas come with drawbacks

Will Hurst

This week Building features a head-to-head debate between proponents of two leading options for expanding UK airport capacity. In one corner sits Daniel Moylan, chief aviation advisor to Boris Johnson, backing a new airport in the Thames Estuary. In the other sit consultants for the so-called Constellation scheme involving new runways at Gatwick and Stansted – architect Sir Terry Farrell and Gareth Roberts, a partner at carbon profiling firm Sturgis.

The debate - sparked by Sturgis’ claim that the Estuary option will produce higher carbon emissions – comes at a crucial time. Airports Commission boss Sir Howard Davies has promised to produce a shortlist of “credible” options before the New Year. His final conclusions in 2015 may indeed focus on the downside of new airport capacity – pollution. But there are different types of pollution. If Sturgis is to be believed, expanding existing airports would produce less whole-life greenhouse gas. But this option could also worsen noise pollution for hundreds of thousands of people. Sir Howard has his work cut out.

Will Hurst, Building assistant editor