Gatwick airport has confirmed its master plan for growth, which proposes the routine use of its existing standby runway to accommodate more departing flights.
A 40-year planning agreement on reserving use of the runway for emergencies and when the main runway is under maintenance comes to an end in 2019 and the new master plan sets out steps for routine use.
Gatwick says the plan would meet “all international safety requirements” and could be delivered without increasing its noise footprint. It also claims the move could improve the airport’s operational resilience.
Perhaps more importantly for corporate travellers, Gatwick claims the project could be delivered without increasing airport charges.
Earlier this week, campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) responded to an article in the Sunday Times that revealed the airport’s plan, saying it had fears that aircraft might hit obstacles at the end of the runway if pilots take off from the wrong position.
A spokesman for the group also said the increase in flights would increase the noise impact on local communities.
The airport has today launched a 12-week public consultation on the plan and says it encourages local residents to provide feedback. All responses will be reviewed before a final version of the master plan is agreed early next year.
If the scheme is approved, Gatwick believes the runway could deliver extra capacity by the mid-2020s.
The airport is also considering “how deploying new technology could increase the capacity of the main runway” and improve efficiency.
Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick airport, said: “Our draft master plan marks the start of a new phase for Gatwick – building on what has made the airport the success it is today, and pioneering again to take advantage of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.
“As the UK heads towards an important new chapter, 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 master plan offers agile, productive and low-impact ways of unlocking much-needed new capacity and increased resilience from within our existing infrastructure.”
The plan has been supported by Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, who said his constituency’s “prosperity depends on the success of Gatwick airport”.
Bjorn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian, which has grown its Gatwick operations over the last few years, commented: “As we continue our global growth, we welcome any increases in airport capacity in the Greater London Area that support our commercial interests and ultimately benefit consumers.”
Commenting on the news, Jason Geall, VP and general manager of Northern Europe at American Express Global Business Travel, said: “In order for UK businesses to grow and develop relationships, we need the right infrastructure in place to facilitate travel, but currently we’re hindered by a lack of runways. Until now, the spotlight has been on Heathrow’s potential third runway, but progress has been slow. The idea that Gatwick could open a second runway is a welcome prospect. It sends a signal to the world that the UK is open for business.”
Meanwhile, Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign chairman Peter Barclay said: "We strongly oppose any second runway at Gatwick and it will fight this proposal tooth and nail. The proposal, which may bring in excess of 80,000 additional flights a year, will simply increase the problems already being experienced by local communities – noise, air pollution and excessive road traffic. It would also put even greater pressure on the tottering road and rail infrastructure both locally and further afield. The legal agreement prohibiting a second runway at Gatwick expires in August 2019 and it would appear the airport is attempting to get a second runway via the back door as it were. Any proposal to bring the emergency runway into operation will need approval from the Civil Aviation Authority and other safety bodies, as well as needing planning permission for Change of Use.
"People will feel angry and deceived following parliament’s overwhelming decision in June to confirm the government’s earlier choice of Heathrow for the site of additional runway capacity in the south-east. We will study the proposals with care and advise our members how best to respond to the master plan during the 12-week consultation period."
Gatwick’s full master plan can be read here