A public poll on Gatwick’s plans to use an existing emergency runway to increase capacity has sparked a war of words between the airport and an opposing community group.

Gatwick claims 74 per cent of Sussex, Surrey and Kent residents who were surveyed by YouGov on behalf of the airport support its plans, with only 14 per cent directly opposing the move.

Furthermore, 67 per cent of those polled support the Gatwick’s plan to safeguard land south of the airport in case it is needed for a new runway “to meet future long-term demand”. While the airport “is not actively pursuing” the option for a new runway, it says it is in the national interest to keep the land free for future development.

Praising the results of the poll, Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said: “These results show that an overwhelming majority of residents in Sussex, Surrey and Kent who were surveyed both support our plans for growth and recognise how important they are in terms of securing the region’s economic prosperity and new jobs for generations to come.

“Our draft master plan sets out our vision for the airport’s sustainable growth into the 2030s and explains how it can meet the UK’s increasing demand for air travel and global connectivity. The plan would help us to bolster the national and local economies for future generations and I encourage as many people as possible to take part in our ongoing consultation process.”

However, Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) says the consultation “stinks of propaganda”, claiming the airport will not detail how it obtained the data showing residents’ approval.

The community group also claims releasing the details of the poll will confuse residents into thinking the consultation is over, though it does not close until 10 January.

CAGNE has written to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) demanding the consultation be dismissed “as nothing more than a profile-raising stunt to increase share price”.

“Gatwick are purposely misleading people during this consultation and we find it absolutely appalling that Gatwick have released this poll result now when the consultation does not finish until 10 January. People will be even more confused by thinking that the consultation has finished already and that they do not have time to participate or object.”

CAGNE has maintained since Gatwick released its master plan that the airport is attempting to get a new runway “by the back door”.

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