Radical growth plans for Gatwick Airport - including controversial proposals for a second runway - have been unveiled by officials today.
Three possible expansion plans are being put forward - including the conversion of the airport’s existing emergency runway into full-time use - which bosses say could create 20,000 new jobs.
But already opponents have hit out at what they see as Gatwick expansion by ‘stealth.’ The airport’s original proposals for an entirely new second runway were halted by the Government two years ago in favour of expansion at Heathrow.
In a draft masterplan revealed by Gatwick bosses today, it is proposed to use the emergency standby runway - only currently used when the main runway is closed for emergencies or maintenance - for ‘routine use.’
A current 40-year agreement not to use the two runways simultaneously comes to an end in 2019. The masterplan outlines how the new runway could be used alongside the main runway for departing flights by the mid 2020s.
Anti expansion campaigner Sally Pavey, who lives near Horsham and spearheads the group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, said: “This is simply betrayal of communities of Sussex, Surrey and Kent who have already endured the increases in longhaul movements this year by 24.1 per cent - this is a second runway by the backdoor.”
She said it would mean around a 20-30 per cent increase in flights, day and night. “It’s outrageous and just makes your heart go down to your shoes.”
She said there were also aircraft safety concerns with the runways being so close together, along with concerns about increased noise, pollution and a lack of infrastructure to cope with expansion.
However Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said the proposed use of the existing standby runway would not increase airport noise and would meet all international safety requirements, If it progresses the plan, a detailed planning proposal would be submitted.
He said the plans would mean an extra 8,000 jobs being created at Gatwick itself - 20,000 in the region overall - and would add an extra £2 billion to the economy.
The plans would see the number of passengers going through the airport rise to around 60 million by 2032. It would also mean the number of take-off and landings increase from a peak of around 55 an hour to up to 70.
The masterplan also outlines alternative proposals that could see the use of new technology being used to increase capacity on the existing main runway, as well as proposals to safeguard land to the south of the airport for a possible new runway in the future - although airport bosses stress that option is not currently being pursued.
Stewart Wingate added: “Gatwick’s growing global connections are needed more than ever but this must be achieved in the most sustainable way. From using new technologies on our main runway, to the innovative proposal to bring our existing standby runway into routine use, our draft masterplan offers agile, productive and low-impact ways of unlocking much-needed new capacity and increased resilience from within our existing infrastructure.”
He said the airport had experienced a lot of success in bringing in new longhaul routes and the masterplan proposals would enable more to be created. The expansion would be fully funded by the airport’s owners, he said, with no cost to the public purse.
A 12-week public consultation period is now being launched to gather views of the masterplan. Stewart Wingate added: “Gatwick’s growth has been built through partnership so as we look ahead at our future development, we want to shape these plans together with our local communities, our passengers, our airlines and partners. We would encourage as many people as possible to take part in our consultation process. This will help shape our plans for securing the region’s prosperity.”
Crawley MP Henry Smith welcomed the proposals. He said: “I have always supported the airport growing within its existing boundaries and welcome their exciting new vision for incremental growth that will support more jobs and opportunity in Crawley.”
CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn added: “The CBI welcomes Gatwick’s highly productive proposals to deliver increased capacity that complements expansion schemes at other airports. This will drive trade and investment, create new jobs and help British businesses thrive.”