The decision on London’s third airport occupied the minds of planners and politicians for years — and eventually, in Stansted, came to the right choice. But what of the abortive plan to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary: sensible gamble or wild fantasy?

One of the first, rather rudimentary, illustrations from 1970 depicting Boeing 747s using the so-called ‘floating runways’ at Maplin Sands.

On the map it’s called The Broomway, but to the locals the causeway which crosses this stretch of mudflats and sand is ‘The Doomway’, the most dangerous path in Britain And with good reason. Over the centuries, more than 100 people have been caught out by the tide, which rushes across the sands quicker than you can run.

Half a century ago, it was the tide of public opinion which forced the government to see this desolate area of the Essex coast as offering a vision of the future for Britain’s transport infrastructure. But it wasn’t long before it receded, leaving plans for a big new airport high and dry. Even the minister whose job it was to promote the project has admitted 50 years later that he thought it was a bad idea.

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