Proposals for a new hub airport in the Thames estuary are “pie in the sky” and a “total non-starter”, according to former transport secretary Lord Adonis.

Adonis outlined the plans of architect Norman Foster for a new airport in the Thames estuary to the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) conference in Barbados.

He said: “Until I saw Foster’s presentation I thought it might be possible. But the proposal has so many problems.

“It is a total non-starter. The cost will clearly be £100 billion. The birds alone could stop this.

“There is a lot of housing on the Isle of Grain, and the approaches to the new airport would go through Dutch airspace.”

Adonis, the transport secretary in the last Labour government, told the ITT: “It will take a huge job of work to build the consensus for a deal. It would take a generation.

“I had hoped an estuary airport would be the answer, but it is pie in the sky.”

Adonis described the failure to develop more airport capacity as “one of the great failures of the last ten years”. He said: “The government’s policy is to have no policy.”

But he did suggest a way forward. “The government should set up an independent inquiry to look at all three options – a third runway at Heathrow, the expansion of Gatwick and Stansted, and Foster’s or other proposals for an estuary airport.

“The review should report after the next election and the three parties should agree not to rule out any options before the election as two of the three did last time.”

Adonis argued: “The ITT should encourage the government to agree to such a review. We can’t allow the issue to drift.

“The parties should come together over the review and the industry provide input so that we could have some policy in five years.”

He said: “No one has a better proposal. How long it will take I’m not sure. It could be a year, it could be five years. But I don’t see any other way.

“It’s not possible to generate sufficient consensus to undertake major infrastructure plans unless the political parties come together. If they don’t, it will be a disaster.”