Gatwick to set aside up to £30 million for flood resilience fund

Gatwick Airport bosses have announced they are setting aside up to £30 million as a “resilience” fund to guard against a repeat of the floods chaos there last Christmas.

Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) stated last week that it accepted all the recommendations of the McMillan Report into flood resilience, disruption and passenger welfare, set up in the wake of the scenes last Christmas Eve.

Airport bosses said a £5 million programme of activity had already started to improve the airport’s resilience to flooding.

They added up to £30 million has been made available to help implement the McMillan Report's findings in full, and significant focus will be given to improving the “crucial area of passenger welfare.”

David McMillan, a non-executive director of Gatwick Airport, was commissioned by the Gatwick Airport Board to review the airport community's response on Christmas Eve, when a deluge of rain, which GAL called “unprecedented,” caused flooding at the airport and forced the cancellation of many flights.

He was also asked to recommend clear actions the airport, airlines, baggage handlers and wider community should take to ensure the airport becomes more resilient, and responds more effectively in times of disruption.

Gatwick noted that the Christmas Eve storm did not affect South Terminal operations, with more than 70% of scheduled flights departing, 75% arriving, and normal services resumed the following day But immediately following the events of Christmas Eve, the airport offered £100 of high street vouchers to every passenger whose flight had been cancelled, and it made £5 million available to fund further improvements in flood resilience. Projects already underway include installing new water storage chambers at critical points at the airport, enhancing resilience in the North Terminal basement to offer better protection to critical assets, and improving systems used to monitor pumping stations and river levels. Last week's statement from Gatwick said: “The McMillan Report has now been published and London Gatwick today has accepted its recommendations in their entirety. “Although the flooding that occurred was assessed as a one in 100-year event, the airport fully endorses the report’s recommendations as to the need to increase resilience, and is announcing the setting aside of a resilience fund of up to £30 million. “This will be invested as necessary following detailed implementation planning of David McMillan’s recommendations.”

It continued: “The airport is committed to implementing all the short-term actions which have been recommended, by October this year, and we will be working closely with the Environment Agency and other relevant agencies on long-term flood planning for the airport. “Alongside projects to better protect the airport and its assets from flooding, significant focus will also be given to improving the airport, airline and wider airport community's Control and Command processes, and to the crucial area of passenger welfare.”

Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at London Gatwick, said: “We fully accept the recommendations of the McMillan Report and we have already started to take actions in light of his findings.”

He said: “There are clearly lessons that we and the airport community can learn from the events of Christmas Eve. It is important we now look to the future and make the necessary improvements to ensure the airport is more resilient to flooding. “In addition, we will work with the airport community to improve all aspects of contingency planning, with a particular focus on passenger welfare in times of disruption.”

Since Gatwick’s change of ownership, the airport has invested more than £20 million in improving flood defences and reducing the risk of flooding. The total includes a £4 million investment in the Environment Agency’s Upper Mole Flood Alleviation Scheme and £10 million Gatwick Stream Flood Attenuation Scheme.

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