Local campaign groups have hit out at Gatwick Airport’s decision to turn its emergency runway into a routinely operating second runway, calling the move “callous”.
Yesterday it emerged that the Sussex airport’s investors – French giant Vinci and infrastructure fund GIP – had committed to funding the expansion, which would add 90 flights a day.
According to the Mail on Sunday, Gatwick’s northern runway, which is currently used for taxiing and emergencies, will be operating short-haul flights by the end of the decade.
Environmental group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) said that the decision showed the airport was determined to ignore local concerns.
The group said: “For an airport that is on its knees due to Covid and Brexit, this is a clear illustration of intent by the management and overseas shareholders of Gatwick Airport to ignore the noise and emissions issues it has been creating for years over the rural areas of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.
“To call a second runway-by-stealth ‘runway-lite’ is not only disingenuous but callous towards communities, and disrespectful to those who suffer from Gatwick’s operations.
“It clearly shows that money for overseas shareholders speaks louder than community voices”, it added.
As a result of the pandemic, traffic at Gatwick has dropped 80 per cent since March, with many of the airport’s biggest players heavily reducing flights.
The airport said that it expects passenger demand to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023.
Details of the expansion were proposed in 2018’s “Master Plan” for the airport, which said that an extra runway would add 55,000 flights a year.
Gatwick said that the proposal would add £2bn to the economy and create thousands of new jobs.
A spokesperson for the airport said: “Funding to continue the preparation of the planning application including environmental surveys and data collection is in place and we anticipate a statutory consultation will take place in the summer.
“Investing in infrastructure is vital to support economic recovery and thousands of new jobs could be created delivering the project, providing a significant boost at a time when the region’s economy needs it most.
“The Northern Runway plan is also sustainable and, alongside the wider UK aviation industry, Gatwick has committed to cut aviation net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, in line with UK Government targets.”