Britain’s second-busiest airport, London Gatwick, is pushing ahead with plans to become a dual-runway airport by the end of the decade – despite environmental concerns over the project.
The project involves bringing a backup runway into use for departures along the main runway – currently the busiest take-off and landing runway in the world. It will increase annual capacity from 281,000 movements to 386,000 – a 37% increase and just 20% less than current takeoffs and landings at Heathrow.
Sussex Airport has officially submitted an application – known as a Development Consent Order (DCO) – to the Planning Inspector for permission to move the existing backup runway 12 meters north.
This will provide enough distance from the main runway to allow take-off of medium-sized passenger aircraft such as easyJet and Wizz Air’s Airbus A320s, plus Ryanair’s Boeing 737s. The plan also includes the expansion of the South and North Terminals and the improvement of ground links.
The airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said the plans would “help secure the airport’s long-term future” and deliver a £1 billion annual economic boost to the East region. South England.
He said: “If approved, our plan will also improve the airport’s resilience, meet future passenger demand and increase competitiveness in the London airport market, by providing important new international connections to support ‘Global Britain’.
“The consultation and engagement over the past two years has been extremely valuable in shaping our plans to ensure they best meet the needs and requirements of the local people, as well as the our airlines, passengers and other stakeholders.
“We are confident that our plans are both economically and environmentally robust.”
The project is expected to cost around £500m – a fraction of the proposed third runway at Heathrow. Controversial expansion plans for Heathrow’s additional runway involve taking over a significant amount of residential property, something the Gatwick project did not do.
But opponents of Gatwick’s proposal say they are “flying in the face of a climate emergency”.
When the consultation opened, a calculation from the Green Party estimated that the plans could generate an additional 1.5 million tons of CO2 emitted each year. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the expansion plan was “totally incompatible with the UK’s climate goals”.
Speaking exclusively for independenceGatwick’s chief planning officer, Tim Norwood, said: “We know very well that there are impacts, so we are introducing a soundproof plan and will be an off-grid airport by 2030. .”
Helen Coffey, who Independence‘s travel editor, who stopped flying in 2019 because of the climate crisis, said: “The term ‘airport without network’ is quite possibly the biggest paradox going on. At a time when we need to significantly cut carbon emissions to prevent warming of our planet, the proposal to increase flights and thus increase emissions by 37% does not seem appropriate. UK CO2 reduction targets.”
The backup runway was created in 1979 when a taxiway was upgraded. It is used in emergencies when the main runway is blocked and during scheduled maintenance of the main runway.
Gatwick’s primary runway is called 08R/26L and the backup runway 08L/26R. The center lines of the two runways are 198 meters apart. International rules stipulate that the minimum distance between the center lines of parallel runways is 210 meters “when the runway is used by medium or heavy aircraft”.
If the plan goes through, the existing main runway will be used for all arrivals and departures of larger aircraft such as Airbus A330, A350 and A380 jets, as well as Boeing 787 and A380 aircraft. 777. But since most of Gatwick’s flights are on A320s and 737s, many take-offs will use the “new” runway.