Gatwick Airport has established a Growth Board (GGB) as it seeks to bolster arguments for a second runway ahead of the government's long-awaited decision on aviation capacity in the south east.
Former minister for the Olympics and for London Baroness Tessa Jowell and former minister for transport Steve Norris will co-chair the group, examining the wider economic and social impacts of the airport's future growth and expansion plans on the local area, as well as the economy as a whole.
"This is a great opportunity to build on the experience of the Olympics – commissioning the park and staging the games – to bring economic and social benefit across the UK. It is important that the continued growth of success stories like Gatwick is seen through a national lens," Jowell said.
“The GGB will look closely at how investment and growth here can better benefit not only the region but also the country as a whole and I am delighted to have the opportunity to help deliver a plan to make this happen.”
The GGB will look at implications of Gatwick's national status in the context of both one runway and two runways. The board will report to Gatwick's chairman, Sir Roy McNulty.
“Gatwick has invested billions to realise our transformation to this point. We have great plans for further growth in the future and it is now clear that only Gatwick can deliver the runway that the UK needs," said Gatwick chief exec Stewart Wingate.
Heathrow hit back, branding the new board as unnecessary.
“The independent Airports Commission already did this analysis during a two and a half year, £20m study. It unanimously and unambiguously recommended Heathrow expansion," a Heathrow spokesperson said.
Earlier this year Heathrow Airport hired four contractors to work on plans to build a third runway, despite a lack of approval from the government.
The news comes as a new poll from Populus found support for the airport's expansion plans remain strong in local communities, with 51 per cent for against 35 per cent who oppose a third runway.
However, last week a cross-party group of 11 London councils urged the Prime Minister to back Gatwick over Heathrow.
In a letter to Theresa May, the councils said there is a “broad and growing consensus behind Gatwick expansion” and pledged to work with ministers to support the “bold and ambitious project”.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also wrote a letter last week calling on May to opt for a runway at Gatwick.
Matthew Hill, of the business campaign Let Britain Fly, said of the launch of the GGB: “This announcement highlights the importance of airports in the south east to growth across the country. They are a critical part of our national infrastructure and we urgently need to government to get on and make a decision on a new runway.”
Meanwhile, director of policy at London Chamber of Commerce Sean McKee said: “It will be interesting to the follow the deliberations of the new growth board.
“The key priority for London businesses remains an urgent decision on airport capacity in the south cast, to secure the UK’s economic future.
“This means government taking a bold decision and giving the go-ahead for new runways at both Heathrow and then Gatwick. “