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Gatwick Airport campaigners slam plans to use emergency runway to increase capacity and flights

By Lynn Cox

Campaigners have hit out at bosses at Gatwick Airport after they announced plans to use their emergency runway to increase aviation capacity.

Activists say the move is "totally underhand" and will mean there will be an extra 231 planes taking off each day.

It comes three years after Gatwick failed to persuade the Airports Commission that it was a suitable site for a second runway.

The Davies Report instead opted to recommend a third runway be built at Heathrow Airport.

Bosses at Gatwick confirmed this morning their plans to use the emergency runway to increase the number of flights as part of their five year plan.

The draft masterplan suggests using the standby track into routine use for departing flights by the mid 2020s.

The move has angered campaigners living under the flight paths of the airport near Crawley in West Sussex, many of which fly over west Kent.

Gatwick Airport. Picture: Countrywide Photographic
Gatwick Airport. Picture: Countrywide Photographic

Sally Pavey, chair of Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, known as CAGNE, said: "This is totally underhand, a stab in the heart for residents that thought they could get on with their lives after the runway debate was won by Heathrow Airport."

“This is despicable behaviour by Gatwick management and clearly shows their contempt for us communities of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

"They obviously can’t be trusted as they have illustrated they do not care about communities that surround them in rural communities that are suffering today intolerable noise and fall out of Gatwick’s growth.”

Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport

Activists say the emergency runway was never designed to be used for anything other than to deal with air incidents when things go wrong.

They claimed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has always been concerned about they safety of using this emergency runway in conjunction with the main runway.

Campaigners say they do not see that anything has changed apart from the airport becoming busier.

The plans are expected to add more than 80,000 extra planes a year to the skies above the homes of Sussex, Surrey and Kent, equating to about 231 a day.

The campaigners also say using the emergency runway in conjunction with the main runway could mean a 20 - 30% increase in flights over the very communities which currently have no respite 24/7 from aircraft noise.

CAGNE believes that Gatwick plans to fly European flights from the emergency runway so increasing capacity at their peak "bucket and spade" holidays season when Gatwick is at full capacity.

The group also believe Gatwick will announce increase usage of concentration of flight paths to fit in extra routes adding to the purgatory of the suffering of communities within a 30-mile radius.

Sally Pavey chair of CAGNE said: "This is not just about safety of passengers and residents but also the intolerable increase in noise that will be create for residents of Sussex, Surrey and Kent at times when they want to enjoy the rural beauty of their homes and countryside.

“This announcement today is shameful, a second runway by the backdoor, this announcement just blights lives further purely to satisfy the greed Gatwick’s owners, GIP, so that they can sell their shares next year for a escalated price.

"The local authorities, the people we elected, need to think hard before supporting Gatwick’s plans as to agree to this, or the safeguarding of land for a second runway, would continue to ignore the environmental impacts locally and national that Gatwick creates. It is simply a state of emergency for the planet and locally due to this regional airport wicked plan.

"The local authorities pick up the bill for the currently crumbling infrastructure whilst Gatwick continues to seek to clog further with 50m passengers off a single runway.

"Residents far and wide are seeing their roads and air quality decline; passenger park in residential road to avoid the expensive Gatwick parking; and commuters stand all the way to work due to the huge influx of low cost airline passengers on commuter trains as they avoid expense of the Gatwick express.

The masterplan would see the standby runway at Gatwick brought into routine use
The masterplan would see the standby runway at Gatwick brought into routine use

"Gatwick is responsible for the 360 decline due to the pressure this airport puts on the infrastructure and lack of local amenities, we do not need the added concern of safety of planes in and out of Gatwick during the peak ‘bucket and spade’ season when all airports in London area at busy.”

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Our draft master plan marks the start of a new phase for Gatwick – building on what has made the airport the success it is today, and pioneering again to take advantage of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

“As the UK heads towards an important new chapter, Gatwick’s growing global connections are needed more than ever but this must be achieved in the most sustainable way.

"From using new technologies on our main runway, to the innovative proposal to bring our existing standby runway into routine use, our draft master plan offers agile, productive and low-impact ways of unlocking much-needed new capacity and increased resilience from within our existing infrastructure.

“Gatwick’s growth has been built through partnership so as we look ahead at our future development, we want to shape these plans together with our local communities, our passengers, our airlines and partners.

"We would encourage as many people as possible to take part in our consultation process. This will help shape our plans for securing the region’s prosperity.”

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