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Gatwick second runway scheme draws fire from campaigners
11:41am Tuesday 23rd October 2012 in Local News
Conservation campaigners against expansion at Gatwick Airport have promised “a massive campaign of opposition” in the event of “any serious plan”for a new runway.
The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) vowed it would be ready to “resume the battle” against a second runway being built after Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) last week announced it will be starting work to “develop options for a new runway.”
In a statement, GAL said a new runway at Gatwick has advantages over expansion at Heathrow and Stansted, and the building of an estuary airport, but stressed it remains committed to the 1979 legal agreement that no runway be built before 2019.
GAL stated: “Gatwick Airport Limited is beginning detailed work on the options for a new runway. “This will be submitted to the Independent Commission on Aviation Connectivity, chaired by Sir Howard Davies.
“Our submission to the Commission will be consistent with Gatwick’s commitment to the 1979 legal agreement with West Sussex County Council. “That agreement prohibits Gatwick from constructing a new runway before 2019.”
The statement continued: “Since the change of ownership in 2009, Gatwick has continued to safeguard the land that would be required for a new runway. “In July 2012, Gatwick published its new Masterplan, which outlined the detailed vision for the airport up to 2020. “It also discussed the longer-term options for the airport, including a scenario for a new runway.”
The statement highlighted: “The work programme will now look in detail at the implications of a new runway and will cover all issues which Gatwick anticipates will be relevant to the Commission and the eventual policy decision by the Government on airport expansion. “It will evaluate various runway options and assess key requirements, including environmental, surface access and economic impacts. “Relevant environmental issues will include noise and air quality impacts on local communities.”
GAL stated: “Gatwick believes that the additional capacity, flexibility and resilience that could be provided by a new runway at Gatwick would help to ensure that London’s airports provide the South East and the UK with the connectivity they need.” It added: “Gatwick’s work, and subsequent submission to the Commission, will include a detailed evaluation of how Gatwick’s existing single-runway capacity can be maximised to contribute to the short-term capacity needs for London and the UK.” GAL's chief executive Stewart Wingate, said: “Over the last three years we have transformed the airport, invested around £650 million and have a strong track record for delivering key routes to growth markets. “However, we must now look to the future when Gatwick will become full and outline its long-term role in ensuring London has an efficient and resilient airport system that creates the crucial connectivity London and the UK needs.” Mr Wingate said: “I believe a new runway at Gatwick could be affordable, practical and give passengers a greater choice of routes to key markets. “A new runway will allow Gatwick to compete and grow, increasing the choice available to passengers today. We have the space, capability and access to financial resources.” He continued: “There are clear practical advantages of a new runway at Gatwick. “When compared with a third runway at Heathrow, we would have a significantly lower environmental impact whilst adding significantly more capacity. “Stansted is half empty today, we already have much better surface transport links and feel our business case will be much stronger. “As for the estuary airport concepts, there are major questions on affordability, environmental issues and whether they are deliverable.” He concluded: “The process of evaluating the runway options will be complex. “I am committed to undertaking a comprehensive and in-depth assessment that considers not only the economic benefits but also the environmental impacts. “We will be consulting with our key stakeholders throughout the process.”
The news was welcomed by the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, representing business in the area.
Chairman Paul Gresham said he was pleased at the news that Gatwick's owners would honour the legal agreement specifying that no new runway would be built before 2019.
He said: “The role of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative is to drive economic development in the area, and the importance of Gatwick Airport’s continued success to the business community cannot be overstated.”
He continued: “It is only natural that the airport’s owner is in favour of a second runway, particularly against the backdrop of the Davies Commission, which has been tasked with identifying and recommending to Government options to maintain the UK’s prominent status as an international hub for aviation. “Gatwick clearly offers a number of advantages due to its proximity to London and excellent location in the South East.”
He said: “We recognise there will be issues around airport capacity from 2020, and it is important to ensure all interested parties have a voice in what will be an extremely sensitive debate.”
A statement from the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, a public and private sector economic partnership, said it “strongly supports the decision to consult with key stakeholders throughout the process,” and added it would “work closely with Gatwick Airport, local authorities and the business community to help ensure that the outcome benefits the Gatwick Diamond economic region, which stretches from East Grinstead to Horsham and from Epsom to Burgess Hill.”
But GACC, based in Charlwood and which has as members about 100 borough, district and parish councils, covering about a 20-mile radius from the airport, attacked the announcement from GAL.
Chairman Brendon Sewill said: “We have always been totally opposed to a new runway on environmental grounds, and have had massive support from across Surrey, Sussex and west Kent.”
He said: “We have been supported by all the local MPs and all the county, district and parish Councils in a wide area.
“If necessary, we will resume the battle.”
Mr Sewill of Stan Hill, Charlwood, said: “‘In fact all the options for a new runway have been examined many times before - 1953, 1970, 1993 and 2003 - and have always been found impracticable.” He said the line of the runway shown in the 2012 Master Plan, as referred to in the GAL press release and for which land is at present safeguarded, is too close to the existing runway to allow a new terminal and space for aircraft to manoeuvre on the ground.
Mr Sewill said that was the view of British Airways, and high ground at the western end and the main railway line at the eastern end meant the runway would have to be short.
He added it would also be only a few hundred yards north of residential areas in Crawley.
He also pointed out that the sort of airport expansion which would require new runways would be ruled out by the UK's climate change targets.
“So we are doubtful whether any new runway will be required in the South East,” he said.
“GAL have said they wish to sell Gatwick in around 2018, so they obviously wish to keep the price up by keeping the runway issue open.
“But, if there were any serious plan for a new runway, GACC would mount a massive campaign of opposition.”
GACC, a voluntary association founded in 1968, has as its goals a steady reduction in noise and pollution from the airport, and other key aims including the protection of the environment around Gatwick, and keeping the airport within its present boundaries. It is the main environmental body concerned with Gatwick. Gatwick is the UK's second biggest airport and the busiest single-runway airport in the world.
It is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder.
Serving more than 200 destinations - more than any other UK airport - in 90 countries for around 33 million passengers a year on short and long-haul services, it is a major economic driver for the South-East. The airport is estimated to generate about 23,000 on-site jobs and a further 13,000 jobs through related activities.