Gatwick Airport publishes proposals to use emergency runway

Alexandra Rogers
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Gatwick said it wanted the emergency runway to be operational by the 2020s

Gatwick Airport has published controversial plans to use its standby runway to increase capacity in a move that has been branded as "subterfuge" by campaigners.

The plans mean the airport's standby or emergency runway will effectively operate as a second runway, which Gatwick has called for to increase its constrained capacity. The airport lost out to Heathrow in the battle for a second runway when the matter went to a vote in parliament earlier this year.

Gatwick has been unable to use its standby runway because of a 40-year planning requirement that only allows it to use that runway when the main runway is closed for maintenance or emergencies. That hurdle expires at the end of 2019 and the airport now wants to use the standby runway for departing flights by the mid-2020s.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “As the UK heads towards an important new chapter, Gatwick’s growing global connections are needed more than ever but this must be achieved in the most sustainable way. From using new technologies on our main runway, to the innovative proposal to bring our existing standby runway into routine use, our draft master plan offers agile, productive and low-impact ways of unlocking much-needed new capacity and increased resilience from within our existing infrastructure."

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has launched a legal challenge against Heathrow's third runway with local councils, said: “I’ve always been clear that the south east needs additional airport capacity and that this could be delivered quicker and more cheaply at Gatwick, without the same impact a new runway at Heathrow would have.

“These new and innovative proposals from Gatwick in their masterplan could make a substantial contribution creating the runway capacity so desperately needed in and around London.”

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Now more than ever, unlocking new aviation capacity to deliver global trade links is critical for a strong UK economy. London’s airports are set to be full in the next decade, so the CBI welcomes Gatwick’s highly productive proposals to deliver increased capacity that complements expansion schemes at other airports. This will drive trade and investment, create new jobs and help British businesses thrive.”

Chair of campaign group communities against Gatwick noise and emissions Sally Pavey said the move was "totally underhand" and a "stab in the heart for residents".

“This is despicable behaviour by Gatwick management and clearly shows their contempt for us communities of Sussex, Surrey and Kent. They obviously can’t be trusted as they have illustrated today that they do not care about communities that surround them in rural communities that are suffering today intolerable noise and fall out of Gatwick’s growth.”

Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign said the move amounted to "subterfuge". Chairman Peter Barclay said: "We strongly oppose any second runway at Gatwick and it will fight this proposal tooth and nail."