Campaigners against a second runway being built at Gatwick have slated airport bosses as treating local residents with “contempt” and “utter disdain.”
The strongly-worded attack from the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), stating the public have been “misled,” has come this week after Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) submitted its latest proposals for a new runway to the Airports Commission.
A spokesman for the airport denied the claims of contempt and utter disdain.
A second runway at Gatwick – 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 GAL said the expansion would enable more people to fly to more destinations, 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, and said 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.
The GAL statement concluded 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, 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, and highlighted that Gatwick's location south of London meant 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: "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." However, this week, GACC said it had now studied the latest runway proposals, and its chairman, Brendon Sewill, branded them “horrendous.”
Mr Sewill of Stan Hill, Charlwood, said: ‘They are horrendous - much larger in scale than in the recent consultation.
“The proposals will so infuriate local people that they will be determined to oppose the runway scheme at every stage.
“Any hopes that the airport may have had of building a new runway on time will have disappeared.”
GACC attacked GAL's submission to the Airports Commission, saying its 3,200 page document had not been published, “ denying residents a chance to examine the plans in detail,” and had been sent in before the runway consultation had been completed, “thus treating over 6,000 residents with contempt.”
The group continued: “The Gatwick press summary shows that the new airport would be bigger than anything previously envisaged.
“The maximum number of passengers per year has gone up to 97 million, compared to a maximum of 87 million in the consultation.
“That would make Gatwick much bigger than Heathrow today - 72 million in 2013 - and nearly three times as big as Gatwick today - 35 million.”
As well as blasting the runway proposals for heaping pressure on the area's road and rail network, GACC stated: “The number of new jobs attributable to a new runway has jumped up to 122,000 - far more than the figure of 17,500 previously forecast by the airport.
“It is stated that these new jobs would be spread across London and the South-east, but inevitably, most would be concentrated around Gatwick, where there is comparatively low unemployment.”
Mr Sewill added: “The result could only be large-scale inwards migration, making the north-south divide worse.
“It would mean massive urbanisation and house building, and great pressure on hospitals and schools. Goodbye green fields.”
GACC concluded its statement, saying: “The new plans show utter disdain for the 6,000 people who have visited the runway exhibitions during the past month, and for the thousands more who have responded online.
“They were asked to give their view on which of three runway options was the best - or least bad.
“But in this latest document there is no mention of any alternative options – it is clear that Gatwick Airport Limited have gone for the biggest.”
A spokesperson for Gatwick said: “Gatwick Airport has undertaken a thorough and open six-week public consultation on its plans for a second runway.”
The spokesperson continued: “The public consultation material made clear that our plans are work in progress and that figures contained within it will be refined as we work up more detailed options, as required by the Airports Commission.
“We have also been clear that we are preparing a report of consultation in July, which will take account of the views local people raised during the consultation, and we will be submitting that report to the Airports Commission.
“A formal consultation run by the Commission will also give local people the opportunity to submit their views later in the year. “Further consultations will also take place if Gatwick is selected as the location for a new runway.”