Newly elected RIBA vice-president Sydney Champan wrote a column challenging the abandonment of plans for the Thames Estuary airport in Building, 2 August 1974


The view from Chapman

Airport capacity in the South-east remains a constant topic of hot debate for readers of this magazine … ‘Twas ever thus, as we can see when we cast our eyes back to this week in 1974. Newly elected RIBA vice-president Sydney Chapman wrote a column in Building, bemoaning the fact that plans for the Thames Estuary airport in the Maplin Sands had been abandoned, leaving only Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted to handle soaring demand. He goes on to address competing concerns, both economic and environmental, for why the airport should or should not be built.

Chapman, who had lost his seat as a Tory MP earlier that year, but would be returned to parliament as part of the Thatcher government in 1979, ended his piece by writing: “I believe that the Maplin decision is a disastrous blow to those who thought we had moved into a more civilised era when environmental factors were taken into account with commercial judgements. I am convinced that there will be a need for a new London Airport and that it will have to be built ultimately at Maplin. When it is, it will cost astronomically more in real terms than it would if development had proceeded in the 1970s.”

Forty years later, the idea still hasn’t fully taken off.