Almost three quarters of residents in Sussex, Surrey and Kent back plans to expand Gatwick by making better use of its existing runways.

Only 14% oppose the airport’s growth, according to a poll for the airport by YouGov.

A similarly high proportion (67%) surveyed also supported Gatwick’s plans to continue safeguarding land south of the airport in case it is ever needed for a new runway to meet future long-term demand. Only 16% opposed this concept.

But community umbrella group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (Cagne) hit back, claiming that the airport was seeking to add a new runway “by the back door”.

Thirty eight per cent of those who supported Gatwick’s plans did so because of the potential increase in the airport’s contribution to the local economy such as jobs; 32% recognised the potential increase in travel connections and 27% because the airport already owns the land required to increase capacity.

The polling was commissioned to gather the views of local residents, following publication of its draft master plan in October.

The draft plan considers how Gatwick could grow across three scenarios looking ahead to the early 2030s:

Main runway – using new technology to increase capacity in the near term offering incremental growth through more efficient operations.

Standby runway – potentially bringing Gatwick’s existing standby runway into routine use for departing flights, alongside its main runway, by the mid-2020s. This development would meet all international safety requirements and would be delivered without increasing the airport’s noise footprint and provide greater “operational resilience”.

Additional runway – while not actively pursuing the option of building a new runway to the south of the airport – Gatwick believes it is in the national interest to continue to safeguard this land for the future.

Chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “These results show that an overwhelming majority of residents in Sussex, Surrey and Kent who were surveyed both support ourplans for growth and recognise how important they are in terms securing the region’s economic prosperity and new jobs for generations to come.

“Our draft master plan sets out our vision for the airport’s sustainable growth into the 2030s and explains how it can meet the UK’s increasing demand for air travel and global connectivity.

“The plan would help us to bolster the national and local economies for future generations and I encourage as many people as possible to take part in our ongoing consultation process.”

A Cagne spokesman said: “Residents thought that the airport expansion debate was over, that Heathrow had won, but here we are with Gatwick airport seeking a second runway by the back door and deceiving local people and businesses to the true facts of what it will mean by Gatwick adding 70 million-95 million passengers and tens of thousand of extra workers to the congested roads and single railway line that cannot be expanded.”

The residents organisation has written to the Civil Aviation Authority demanding that the current consultation be dismissed as “nothing more than a profile-raising stunt to increase share price whilst misleading people in providing little details to allow and informed opinion”.

Cagne previously objected to the urban locations of the master plan exhibition held in areas not over flown by aircraft.

Public consultation on Gatwick’s draft master plan runs until January 10.

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