Senior business figures are demanding that the government grants Gatwick the right to build another runway, if expansion at Heathrow continues to be thwarted by political and legal obstacles.
The Airports Commission backed a third runway at Heathrow last July describing the west London site as the “clear and unanimous” option.
The government has repeatedly delayed the decision, however, with no update expected until this summer at the earliest. MPs have called for further environmental and economic studies into the impact of a third runway at Heathrow.
“Personally I just don’t have a preference, I just want us to get on with this,” Iain Anderson, executive chairman of City comms giant Cicero, told City A.M.
“Both would serve the purpose. I think people are deeply frustrated by the hold-ups.”
Hedge fund boss Crispin Odey wrote an open letter over the weekend, first reported by Sky: “The answer to the government’s conundrum is actually quite plain: stop fixating on Heathrow and expand Gatwick,” it said.
The letter, also seen by City A.M., adds: “Gatwick faces no legal impediment to expansion, whereas Heathrow’s expansion has been permanently stalled by noise and air quality issues and will continue to be so in future. Above all, the business community wants something to happen – and Gatwick is the option that can happen. We should get on with it.”
Sir Mike Rake, chairman of Worldpay and BT, said that the government should allow expansion at both Gatwick and Heathrow. “People are just so disillusioned by the lack of conviction,” Rake told City A.M.
“It is very clear that if the government decides not to do Heathrow, it would accelerate the need for a second runway at Gatwick.”
Legal & General boss Nigel Wilson told Sky: “The £9bn Gatwick investment feels more deliverable economically and politically than the £19bn Heathrow solution.”
Business groups demanding greater airport capacity remain supportive of Heathrow but stress the importance of a swift decision.
“The number one thing for business is that the government gets on with it and makes a final decision,” said a spokesperson for Let Britain Fly. “That said, what’s the point in spending £20m on the Airports Commission's extensive report – which comprehensively backed Heathrow – only to ignore its findings?”
Some business leaders are sticking by Heathrow. Sir Martin Sorrell, the boss of global advertising giant WPP, told City A.M.: “The government asked the Davies Commission to review the situation. They did. They should implement that decision.”