Gatwick has refused to rule out applying for a judicial review of Heathrow’s third runway approval plans, claiming that its bid was downgraded unfairly.
This came amid claims that the economic benefits of expanding Heathrow airport were overstated by up to £86 billion.
Building an extra runway at Gatwick would bring virtually the same benefits to the nation as expanding Heathrow, figures “buried” by government suggest, The Times reported.
Questions were raised over prime minister Theresa May’s endorsement of Heathrow after a Department for Transport report more than halved previous estimates for the size of the economic boost to be provided by Heathrow over 60 years.
The government analysis indicated that expanding Gatwick would yield £54 billion in economic benefits - marginally less than the £61 billion attributed to Heathrow - while being a cheaper project and requiring the destruction of fewer homes.
The analysis rejected figures from last year’s Airports Commission report showing that expanding Heathrow would boost the economy by up to £147 billion — or £86 billion more than the government estimate. The commission’s report put the figure for Gatwick at £89 billion.
A DfT report published on Tuesday said that the government “identified a number of concerns” that cast doubt on these estimates. Instead, Grayling announced that a third runway at Heathrow would generate “up to £61 billion” of economic benefits.
The Times said it had been told that the comparable figure for Gatwick was £54 billion, suggesting little difference between the two airports.
Gatwick would lead to the loss of 242 homes and cost half as much as a third runway at Heathrow. The Gatwick figure was in a DfT report but not publicised by the government.
Steve Norris, the former Conservative transport minister who now advises the West Sussex airport, called for the government to keep the door open for a new runway at Gatwick.
In a letter to the newspaper today, he says that expanding Gatwick would be “half the price, half the time, takes no public money, never exceeds statutory emissions standards and overflies a tiny number of households compared with Heathrow”.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling confirmed on Tuesday that Heathrow was the favourite for a new runway in the south-east.
He also endorsed Heathrow’s plans for a sloped runway that would rise at least eight metres above the M25 to avoid putting the motorway in an expensive tunnel.
Heathrow confirmed yesterday that it would sign initial contracts with engineers, architects and planning consultants “within days” to start the third runway after being given the government’s approval, insisting that 95% of spending would go to British suppliers.
A DfT spokesman said: “The airport commission was clear that Heathrow provides the biggest benefit to the UK economy... It will deliver huge economic benefits, improve journeys for passengers and create thousands of jobs and apprenticeships."
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