Eldon Griffiths – 1972 Speech on Maplin Airport Project

Below is the text of the speech made by Eldon Griffiths, the then Under-Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment, in the House of Commons on 9 August 1972.

I will, with permission, make a statement about the Maplin project.
My right hon. Friend has already made clear that the nature of this project, its long time scale and the crucial issues of Government policy that it raises require substantial public sector involvement. The Government have therefore decided to seek powers to establish a Development Authority to undertake the task of land reclamation; secondly, to make land available to the British Airports Authority for the airport and to the Port of London Authority for any seaport development that may be approved; thirdly, to promote, in close co-operation with the private sector, such commercial and industrial development as is consistent with the Government’s regional policies; and, fourthly, to act as landlord for the entire complex.

Maplin will create a need for large-scale urban development in South-East Essex. My right hon. Friend intends that this shall be built to the highest environmental standards. The Government propose to designate a substantial area for development by a New Town Development Corporation, working in close collaboration with the local planning authorities. We expect to publish a draft designation order early next year.

On runways, our consultation document identified four possible sites—lettered A, B, C and D—from south-west to north-east. Broadly, the further north one goes the less the noise but the greater the cost. We have carefully considered all the representations made about siting. Many have favoured site D mainly on grounds that reduction of noise, however small, should override all other considerations. But site D is further offshore, in deeper water, and its extension into the Crouch estuary could complicate the hydraulic aspects of reclamation. It also creates major problems over removing the Shoeburyness military establishment, with serious risks of delay, and it would rule out any option for future access to the airport from the north.

Site A is strongly advocated by aviation interests on the grounds that it is the cheapest, quickest and easiest site to develop and causes least difficulty for the military withdrawal. Site A is also the choice of local authorities north of the Crouch.

Having carefully weighed all the evidence, the Government have decided that, within the limits of practicality, environmental considerations must be uppermost. This is why we chose to go to Maplin in the first place. So, notwithstanding the additional cost, the Government have decided to locate the runways at a northerly site—site C. This will have substantially the same environmental advantages as site D, but without its physical difficulties. I understand this location is acceptable to Essex County Council, and we consider that it will safeguard the interests of Kent. I should add that the overall noise impact of the airport should be much less than envisaged by the Roskill Commission because of the development of quieter aircraft—a development the Government will do their utmost to foster.

Detailed work will be put in hand to reclaim enough land for the first two of the four runways for any seaport development, plus land for industrial and commercial development. Further reclamation will be undertaken when needed.