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Gatwick Airport North Runway Plans Are ‘Cocktail of Negatives’

Published on: 24 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 26 Jun, 2022

Gatwick Airport appears to already have a second runway. It can, under certain circumstances, be used as a runway but is currently too close to the main runway to be permitted to be used at the same time. Photo Mike Bey Flickr

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Gatwick Airport’s hopes of bringing its northern runway into regular use amount to a “second runway by the back door” according to one campaigner.

A public consultation is currently running on the plans, first announced in 2018, which would see the northern runway brought into regular use for smaller departing aeroplanes alongside the main runway.

Sally Pavey, chair of Campaign Against Gatwick Noise and Expansion (CAGNE) said the northern runway can’t be used alongside the main one as it currently is.

She said significant work would need to be done to relocate it, saying it is currently used as an emergency and taxiing runway and is too close to the main one.

Along with concerns about pressure on roads and the accessibility via public transport of the airport, as well as the impact of the aviation industry more widely, she described proposals for Gatwick as “a cocktail of negatives”.

A Gatwick spokesperson said the public had been kept up to date regarding plans since they were announced, including being able to give feedback on two formal consultations.

They said the northern runway already met international safety standards and said works on the airfield to increase the spacing of the runways by 12 metres, additional taxiways and crossings would allow the northern runway to be used on a more routine basis.

Ms Pavey said: “This is a second runway by the back door, and it comes with no compensation, it comes with nothing to appease the huge increase in flights.”

By 2038, the airport expects under the plans to see 75.6 million passengers a year, with 382,000 commercial flights.

In 2019, the airport’s busiest year to date, there were  46.6 million passengers and the airport’s website shows a total of 280,700 flights.

The airport spokesperson said a cap, or an “envelope” on aircraft noise was being proposed with the aim of encouraging airlines to use more quieter planes at the airport, and that more residents were being added to its Noise Insulation Scheme.

CAGNE wrote to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, this month, to raise concerns that the development consent order – needed to secure planning permission on the northern runway – was being progressed at the same time as plans to modernise airspace in the South East.

The airspace modernisation programme, co-sponsored by the government and the Civil Aviation Authority, will look at redesigning flight paths across London and the south east.

The airport spokesperson added: “Bringing our northern runway into routine operation does not require an airspace change.

“Routes that arrive and depart our northern runway already exist and are used today, they have been in place for decades and follow the same tracks that the flights on our main runway use.”

Ms Pavey said: “For them to say there’ll be no new flight path on these two runways is so disingenuous when they know they are conducting the modernisation of airspace and the design principles are showing huge amounts of new flight paths, both on arrival and on departure.”

She also raised concerns about travel to the airport, with the M23 as the main road that serves the airport.

The CAGNE chair said: “Because of the fact that it has one arterial road and if there’s one incident on that road, everything snarls up so everyone goes on the residential roads which are country lanes.”

An airport spokesperson said that in 2019, a record 47.4 per cent of passengers and 40 per cent of staff travelled to the airport by public transport including by rail, bus or coach.

The spokesperson said: “Gatwick railway station is currently undergoing a £150 million improvement project, which will enhance rail access and capacity further.

“The smart motorway between Gatwick and the M25 has been completed, which adds significant road capacity.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “While the government is supportive of airports across the UK making best use of their existing runways, any development consent order would be examined by the Planning Inspectorate as per the established process.

“As part of any planning application, airports would need to demonstrate how they would mitigate local environmental issues and ensure that they align with our Net Zero commitments.”

The plans will be discussed at a meeting of Tandridge District Council’s planning policy committee on Thursday (June 23).

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