The of words between Gatwick and the Airports Commission showed no signs of levelling off today with Sir Howard Davies being forced to defend his commission’s final recommendation to expand Heathrow.
In a letter to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Davies rebuffed claims from Gatwick Airport boss Stewart Wingate about the panel’s endorsement to build a third runway at Heathrow instead of his airport.
Davies disputed all seven main points of Wingate’s 50-page argument, including higher noise and air pollution from Heathrow, as well as for using “incorrect traffic analysis” when deciding to ultimately reject airport expansion at Gatwick.
He wrote that the points Gatwick has made since not being selected had already been voiced and considered throughout the long- delayed report’s preparation.
“We strongly disagree with Gatwick’s view that the Commission’s forecasts underestimate the level of passenger growth… at an expanded Gatwick and overestimate growth at an expanded Heathrow," he said.
Heathrow would have a passenger boom in a variety of scenarios after expansion, Davies wrote, while Gatwick “has spare capacity”, but would only outperform Heathrow when using the “most extreme assumptions about economic growth”.
On the economic benefits of a new runway, Wingate had argued the impact would be “virtually the same”, but Davies countered that a new runway at Heathrow would have roughly two-thirds more “net social benefits” than a second runway at Gatwick.
Davies pointed to greater and faster knock-on benefits for associated industries at Heathrow over Gatwick.
Wingate said he “stands by the widely shared view that this is a flawed report” and hit out at Davies’ assertion that only “limited weight” should be placed on air quality issues.