Gatwick has revealed its plans for a second runway which could almost treble passenger numbers at the London airport.
The three proposed locations to the south of the current site were included in a submission to the Airports Commission before last Friday’s deadline, but published on Tuesday to coincide with a meeting with a local consultative committee.
West Sussex county council has voted to back the proposed expansion of London’s second airport, giving Gatwick a unique measure of support among those competing for the approval of the commission. However, campaigners and residents groups vowed to step up opposition.
Gatwick has drawn up rough plans for runways in three positions to the south of the existing airport. The options at a greater distance from the existing runway allow for more flexible use and more passengers – up to 87 million a year from the current capacity of 34.2 million – but at a greater cost in terms of swallowing up surrounding countryside and houses and extending the noise footprint.
Gatwick says the maximum number of residents substantially affected by noise would be 11,000 – less than 5% of the total affected by aircraft noise at Heathrow.
Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, said the airport’s submission would strongly argue against the need for a single hub airport such as Heathrow or Boris Johnson’s Thames estuary site, and in favour of expanding Gatwick and then Stansted.
He said: “We fundamentally believe in the ‘constellation’ approach. Gatwick getting the next runway will have the airports and airlines competing with one another, and it will provide the same level of connectivity as a mega-hub would.
“When we look at Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing – they are all world cities and are served by a constellation of airports. Mega-hubs tend to be in places like Atlanta or Dubai where the population is less than 2 million. For world cities it’s our strong contention that competing airports is what’s needed.”
He claimed Heathrow exaggerated its reliance on transfer traffic, where passengers fly into the airport before switching to long-haul services.
But Gatwick has also put forward the possibility of the airport becoming a national mega-hub. In one paragraph of its submission to the Sir Howard Davies-led commission, the airport states: “Construction of a second runway to the south of Gatwick would not prevent a further runway subsequently being developed to the north, if the latter was ever to be needed. A Gatwick southern runway, therefore, provides long-term flexibility, and should the Airports Commission decide that it wishes to investigate in more detail the development of a ‘mega-hub’ in the south-east, then it would be appropriate for the commission to request information and/or submissions about the capability of Gatwick to deliver such a development.”
Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, said: “When people begin to realise what is likely to hit them, there will be a tidal wave of public resistance.”
He said attempts to match Heathrow had previously ended in bankruptcy or failure, adding: “The plans confirm that Gatwick is too small ever to provide an efficient airport.”