Gatwick claims three opinion polls show it is a clear favourite with the public for the location of a new runway.
This emerged after research for Heathrow showed that 52% of 3,728 UK residents polled favoured its third runway campaign, compared to 28% who believed Gatwick was the best location for expansion.
However, the West Sussex airport claims three YouGov polls – of Londoners; people living near Gatwick; and residents in Heathrow’s surrounding boroughs – show it as the favoured option.
YouGov surveyed more than 1,000 Londoners at the start of September and asked them, in a straight choice between Heathrow and Gatwick, which one would they choose, if the airport that is not expanded stayed the same size.
Out of 1,037 adults polled, 46% responded Gatwick, 35% Heathrow and 18% said they were not sure, The Telegraph reported.
The same question was asked of 1,008 residents across Hounslow, Spelthorne, Richmond, Kingston, Ealing, Hillingdon, Windsor and Maidenhead – all in the vicinity of Heathrow – and 51% responded in favour of Gatwick. Two fifths supported Heathrow and 9% said they were not sure.
People questioned in areas close to Gatwick, including Croydon, Crawley and Reigate, were in favour of their local airport being expanded.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate claimed the results showed the airport’s second runway campaign is “gaining momentum”.
He added: “Aviation is changing fast and there is increasingly recognition that expansion at Gatwick is best suited to current market trends and can deliver the economic benefits the UK needs at an environmental cost we can afford.”
A smaller sample of Londoners – 653 – were also asked which location would be their first choice for expansion and 44% replied Heathrow, 34% Gatwick and 22% the Isle of Grain, London mayor Boris Johnson’s preferred choice which was ruled out by the Airports Commission earlier this month.
A Heathrow spokesman said: “Our polling shows clear support for expanding Heathrow. But that doesn’t mean we are opposed to a second runway at Gatwick.
“Londoners need more of the long-haul business flights to destinations like China that Heathrow provides and in future will also need more short-haul flights to European destinations that airports like Gatwick and Stansted provide. There’s no need to force people to choose between one or the other.”
Gatwick pointed out that its YouGov survey was conducted after the Isle of Grain was rejected by the commission, suggesting supporters of that project had switched allegiances to Gatwick.
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