Four London councils have joined forces to back Gatwick’s bid for expansion instead of its rival Heathrow, as part of the transport committee’s inquiry into the government’s airport plans.
Richmond, Hillingdon, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead councils pooled resources to condemn a third runway at Heathrow as “impossible” due to air quality problems and threw their weight behind a second runway at Gatwick instead.
It comes after the Aecom-designed scheme put forward by Heathrow Hub, which submitted a detailed cost breakdown of its proposals for an extended second runway to the committee. Heathrow Hub is an independent campaign to extend the north runway to around 6,650m, dividing it in half with a central buffer zone to allow simultaneous take off and landing. It argues this would provide as much new capacity as the proposed 3,500m third runway for around £9.7bn, compared to Heathrow’s £17bn expansion plans.
There has been renewed vocal opposition to a third runway at Heathrow recently from opponents to the scheme and those with alternative proposals for Heathrow expansion, after the government reopened its consultation on expansion.
Updated economic and air quality forecasts published for the extended consultation contained new evidence showing Gatwick could be the greener option and offer a slightly better economic boost for the UK – £75.3bn compared to Heathrow’s £74.2bn.
“The boroughs remain confident, despite (and because of) new evidence, that it is still impossible to add a further runway at Heathrow without causing unacceptable air and noise pollution. In addition, the case for expansion at Gatwick, as opposed to Heathrow, has strengthened,” said the councils in written evidence to the transport committee, which is scrutinising the government’s latest draft Airports National Policy Statement.
“If there is a need for more capacity in the south-east quickly, to show that the UK can be open for business post Brexit, then the only solution is for Government to support capacity where it can be provided quickly; not at Heathrow but at Gatwick.”
In its evidence to the committee, Gatwick wrote: “The need for new airport capacity in the South East is now clearly greater and more urgent than ever.
“The aviation industry in the UK and globally is growing around centres of cost effective and efficient infrastructure. This is exactly what Gatwick, alone, offers in terms of expansion.”
A spokesperson for Heathrow said: “Heathrow expansion has strong support from businesses up and down the country, unions and the majority of MPs.”
The spokesperson added: “Expansion will support our plan to make Heathrow a great place to live and work, doubling the number of apprenticeships at Heathrow to 10,000, with fewer people impacted by noise than today, and an ambition for carbon-neutral growth.”