Gatwick chiefs unveil expansion plans to Airports Commission

Bosses at Gatwick Airport are laying out detailed plans for expansion to the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission. A second runway at the airport – the country's second biggest and the world's busiest single runway airport - is one of the options for South-east England airport expansion short-listed by the commission, which is headed by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies. Other options include a third runway at Heathrow and creating a new airport in the Thames Estuary. But Gatwick has said its £7.8 billion second runway project would be far cheaper and far more beneficial than Heathrow's. A statement from Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) spelled out the reasons, saying the expansion would enable more people to fly to more destinations.

GAL stated that ten million more passengers each year would be able to travel with a second runway at Gatwick than with a third runway at Heathrow.

It continued that a second runway would generate more competition, keeping fares low, and delivering £40 billion more in economic benefits to the UK, than expansion at Heathrow.

GAL added that a new runway at Gatwick could be delivered about five years earlier than a third runway at Heathrow, at no additional cost or risk to the taxpayer, and that expansion at Gatwick would deliver more than 120,000 jobs in London and South-east England, rebalancing the economy away from an overheated M4 corridor.

GAL concluded that Gatwick's location south of London means far fewer people would be affected by noise, saying a second runway at Gatwick would impact 14,000 people compared with the 240,000 people impacted by noise from Heathrow today. Gatwick Airport's chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: “As we reach this critical point in the aviation debate, it is clear that the Airports Commission has a very real choice to make: expand Gatwick and create genuine competition in the market with lower fares for everyone, or move back to a London airport market dominated by a single player, and saddle the next generation with higher air fares.”

Mr Wingate said: "Why would you choose to fly a quarter of a million more planes every year over one of the world's most densely populated cities when instead you can fly them mostly over fields? "Why tunnel part of the busiest motorway in Europe - the M25 - causing serious traffic disruption, when you can build on land already set aside for expansion? “The choice is an obvious one. Expand the best and only deliverable option - Gatwick - and create a market that serves everyone." In response, West Sussex County Council issued a statement saying it is “still waiting for more information about the impacts on those most affected by expansion and the airport’s plans to deal with them.” The county council stated: “Last July, West Sussex County Council decided to support in principle the expansion of Gatwick, including a second runway, as we believe it will benefit the West Sussex economy.”

It continued: “We remain aware of the environmental and infrastructure concerns that arise from an increase in airport capacity. “In September, the council provided GAL and the Commission with a range of questions and issues about the proposals, that reflected the concerns of residents and councillors. “Since then we have been examining and challenging GAL’s responses to these issues. “We are still waiting for more information about the impacts on those most affected by expansion and the airport’s plans to deal with them.”

The council concluded: “We have seen GAL’s latest long-term forecasts. We will look further at the detail and what they mean for Gatwick’s surrounding environment and infrastructure.”

It added: “We have requested a meeting with GAL to discuss these issues as soon as possible and Stewart Wingate has personally agreed to attend this meeting.”

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