Britain's second busiest airport says plans to utilise its standby runway will meet all international safety requirements and would not increase its noise footprint, amid concerns by protest groups.
The pledge comes as Gatwick Airport today unveils long-awaited details on proposals to increase passenger capacity after its bid for a new runway was rejected – with MPs overwhelmingly backing a third runway at Heathrow earlier this year.
The master plan will be the subject of a 12-week consultation and the airport said it was keen to listen to the views of "local communities and stakeholders".
Currently the 2,560m runway runs parallel to the 3,292m main runway and is only used as a taxiway or main runway in emergencies, and opening it up to departing flights could potentially increase capacity by 30%, or more than 80,000 extra flights a year.
In 2012, Gatwick said it expected to reach passenger numbers of 45 million per year by 2030. It has already exceeded that figure, 12 years early, reaching a rolling annual total of 45.6 million in September 2018. The airport says it expects passenger numbers to rise to 53 million by 2023.
Bosses say the draft plan will set out for our local communities, partners, airlines and stakeholders three possible growth scenarios, which will then be opened up for views and feedback.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at Gatwick claims “growing global connections are needed more than ever” and the draft masterplan will attempt to “take advantage of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead”.
He added: “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. Gatwick’s growth has been built through partnership so as we look ahead at our future development, we want to shape these plans together with our local communities, our passengers, our airlines and partners.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, has also backed plans for expansion. She 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.”
Plans to expand have been met with opposition. Earlier this week, the residents group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (Cagne) called the plan “a second runway by the back door”. Spokesperson Sally Pavey said that expansion had been turned down by the Airports Commission and the airport did not have the transport links or facilities for more.
A statement by the group after the plans were revealed, said: "The local authorities, the people we elected, need to think hard before supporting Gatwick's plans.”