Southend Timeline

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Maplin International Airport


The Maplin International Airport was planned to be London’s third airport instead of Stansted.

The airport was planned to be built at Maplin Sands mudflats located on the northern bank of the Thames estuary, off Foulness Island, to the extreme east of Southend-on-Sea, the flats actually lay within the Rochford District Council boundary.

The flats are home to countless wading birds and are in the middle of a live firing range then operated by the Ministry of Defence now operated by QinetiQ.

A plan to develop the airport was first announced in 1971, the plans were given royal assent in October 1973, with a special planning order being granted for planning permission.  Works started with a manmade island being constructed.

The scheme would not only have included a four runway international airport operating 24 hours a day, it also included a deep-water harbour designed to accommodate the new larger container ships then entering service, a high speed rail link to London and the M12 & M13 motorways to London, also included in the plan was a complete town specially built to accommodate the airport workers.

The Maplin Airport scheme was abandoned after the General Election by the incoming Labour Government in July 1974.

The scheme for a Thames Estuary airport rears its head every few years, the latest is from the Mayor of London Boris Johnson who would then close Heathrow! He forgets that he has no control over the areas outside London however this has not stopped him from setting a steering committee to look into the project further.


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