Monday 21 November 2016 6:23 pm

Gatwick boss Stewart Wingate wants government to approve his "complementary scheme" to Heathrow expansion

The government gave Heathrow expansion the go-ahead last month, but Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate isn't feeling despondent.

His focus is still on getting the government to give Gatwick the green light too. Speaking at the Airport Operators Association's annual conference, Wingate said: "My objective is to secure an additional runway at the earliest opportunity."

"I suppose the position we find ourselves in following the government's decision, is that we are somewhat disappointed by the decision, but we're by no means despondent," he added.

"We're fully into fast-forwarding decisions, we'd have the decision this afternoon," Wingate said. "We're ready and we'd like to get on with it, but I think these are very complex decisions and do bring an element of controversy with them."

For now, the other immediate focus will be maximising the use of the space and facilities that Gatwick currently has.

Read more: Heathrow's already started spending on its third runway

Heathrow is already operating at maximum capacity, while Gatwick's expected to run out space within the next few years.

"Our early interest was in getting an additional runway for Gatwick and that remains our interest today," Wingate said. "That's why I suppose, what we continue to offer, which is why we're not despondent, is an opportunity to government that if they want a complementary scheme to Heathrow, we're fully committed and our investors are fully committed to delivering that for the country."

He said that the Department for Transport (DfT) had given both Gatwick and Heathrow the chances to pitch their ideas to transport secretary Chris Grayling over the summer, and then he received several phone calls in the run-up to the decision "outlining when the decision was likely to take place, and then closer to the time, actually informing us what the decision was".

In that respect, he said "the DfT played very fairly".

Chris Grayling, meanwhile, said that the airport expansion decision "wasn't that easy" to make, with three solid proposals on the table. And he emphasised that the Heathrow decision "will certainly not prevent London's other airports from expanding".

Read more: Chris Grayling says aviation industry will be prioritised in Brexit talks

Grayling said regional connectivity was "a given, a requirement, not an optional extra" as part of this process of expansion.

The transport secretary though, wouldn't be drawn on giving the green light to further expansion just yet: "I recognise the point about what happens in the future, but let's get this first step taken first."

He said Gatwick, Luton, London City Airport, Stansted and London Southend will all have "crucial roles to play to meet growing demand for air travel".