Gatwick has denied accusations of creating a second runway “by stealth” as it outlined plans to bring an emergency strip into regular use.

The airport yesterday published its final master plan for the next 15 years and a report on a 12-week public consultation, which concluded earlier this year.

The final scheme calls for the existing standby runway to be brought into “routine use” by the mid 2020s while recommending that planning policy continues to safeguard land for an additional runway.

However, Gatwick stressed that it was no longer “actively pursuing” plans for a third runway.

It claimed that two thirds of respondents backed Gatwick “making best use of its existing runways” in line with government policy.

While continuing to make best use of its main runway, the airport will prepare a planning application to bring the standby runway into routine use via a Development Consent Order (DCO) – described as a “rigorous statutory planning process”.

This will include public consultation next year to allow local authorities, communities, businesses and partners the opportunity to provide more feedback as the scheme evolves.

Additionally, Gatwick is recommending that national and local planning policy continues to safeguard land – as it has been since 2003 – should a new runway be required in the longer-term.

But the plans drew criticism from local communities groups.

Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (Cagne) said: “This is simply a second runway by stealth.

“To use the emergency runway alongside the main runway is in affect a second runway as it will have to be moved by some 12 metres to allow it to be used. As such it is a second runway without the full parliamentary scrutiny or any funding for our roads or railway line that will see a huge increase in passenger and workers numbers migrating into Gatwick.”

The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign condemned the master plan as “devastating” and claimed expansion of the airport will “blight the lives of thousands of residents” as well as impacting those living further away under flight paths.

However, a Gatwick spokesperson told Travel Weekly: “To bring the standby runway into routine use, we will follow a rigorous planning process which will include a full public consultation next year.”

The airport pointed out that 66% of respondents supported Gatwick making best use of existing runways in line with government policy, including the plan to bring the existing standby runway into routine use alongside the main runway.

Meanwhile, 59% of respondents supporting the continued safeguarding of land for an additional runway should it be required in future.

Gatwick contends that the plan to use the standby runway would aim to deliver:

  • Enhanced competition – building on the positive impact that competition has made to the passenger experience, additional capacity will provide further opportunities for airline innovation and passenger choice.
  • Economic growth – Investment will deliver more global connections, new opportunities for the local economy, and jobs for generations to come.
  • Similar noise footprint– the extra capacity will be balanced by the airport’s noise footprint remaining broadly similar to today’s levels. This is mainly because of the introduction of new, quieter aircraft technology which have already made a significant difference.
  • Minimal disruption– the standby runway plans will be a privately financed, low-impact and low-cost development resulting in a highly productive scheme. No compulsory purchase of residential properties would be required.

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said: “We are grateful to the thousands of people that responded to our draft master plan consultation and whose views will continue to help shape our plans. We are encouraged that public consultation has shown strong support for Gatwick and the local area’s ambitions.

“The plans would deliver additional capacity for Gatwick, which will provide choices for the future – including incrementally growing our airport to meet demand and continuing to provide solid operational performance for passengers and airlines.

“This would be the biggest private investment for the region in the coming years, which would result in significant local economic benefits, including new jobs for the area.

“Gatwick’s global connections are needed more than ever but as we take our plans forward, we must do so in the most sustainable and responsible way and in full partnership with our local councils, communities, passengers and partners.”

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