The Runway Issue


Airports Commission Report

The final report of the Airports Commission was published on Wednesday 1 July. They unanimously recommended a third runway at Heathrow.  GACC's reaction was relief but no rejoicing.   We believe that no new runway is needed - see below.

See press release.


 GACC response to the Airports Commission consultation.

 A comprehensive, carefully argued, semi-academic analysis of why a second runway at Gatwick would be an environmental disaster, and where the Airports Commission has got it wrong.




Gatwick's claim to have 'Community support' lies in tatters. Several of the councils listed on the right started by being attracted to the idea of a new runway, but the more councillors studied the probable impact, the more they changed their minds.  All the brash advertising by Gatwick cut no ice compared to the real facts.

All MPs oppose runway

All the Members of Parliament around Gatwick oppose a second runway.  The following have declared their opposition –

Crispin Blunt                     Reigate

Sir Paul Beresford              Mole Valley

Nus Ghani                          Wealden

Sam Gyimah                       East Surrey

Nick Herbert                      Arundel

Jeremy Quin                      Horsham

Henry Smith                      Crawley

Sir Nicholas Soames           Mid Sussex

Tom Tugendat                   Tonbridge


Lord (Francis) Maude

Greg Clark (in an election leaflet)

 Council Roll of Honour

West Sussex County Council has voted 37 : 26  to switch from support in principle to opposition.

Kent County Council previously supported a second runway, now opposes it.

Surrey County Council opposes a new runway unless the necessary infrastructure is first provided.

Crawley Borough Council has voted 25 :11 to oppose a second runway.

Horsham District Council voted 23 : 1 to oppose.

Mid Sussex District Council opposes second runway.

Mole Valley District Council unanimously oppose.

Sevenoaks District Council has decided to oppose.

Tandridge District Council has responded reiterating their core strategy to oppose a new runway.

Tunbridge Wells District Council has voted 39:1 to oppose second runway.

Horley Town Council and East Grinstead Town Council have voted to oppose.  So have virtually all the 50 or more parish councils around Gatwick.

East Sussex County Council voted 27 : 19 to support a second runway.

Reigate and Banstead Borough has taken a firm decision not to take a decision.



The Coalition Government agreed in May 2010 that no new runways would be built at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.  The Lib Dem Party passed a Resolution at their 2012 Conference opposing any new runways in the South East, and this was confirmed at their 2014 conference where an amendment to permit a new runway at Gatwick was overwhelmingly defeated. 

The Airports Commission, chairman Sir Howard Davies (right), was set up in 2012 to study whether there is a need for a new hub airport, and to recommend suitable sites.  They have short-listed two sites at Heathrow and one at Gatwick.



GACC says no need for a new runway.

GACC says that, because of the trend to larger aircraft, and because of unused capacity at Stansted there is no need for any new runway in the South East.  But if a new runway were to be built at Gatwick it would soon fill up, attracting airlines from other parts of the UK, making the over-crowding of the South East worse. See submission to the Airports Commission.


 National Environmental Organisations say no a new runway.

Six major national green organisations, including RSPB, WWF and Friends of the Earth have published a 'manifesto' saying that that cannot support any new runway unless certain conditions are met, including a strict limit of climate change damage, proper recognition of noise in rural areas and full use of existing airport capacity.  Read Manifesto.

National Environmental Organisations say NO Runway  Letter to Sir Howard Davies 


RSPB says any new runway inconsistent with Climate Act.  Read their report.

WWF says new runway would worsen north-south divide.

Read their report.


Warning !   Flight paths for a new runway

The Airports Commission has published maps showing the possible positions of new flight paths if a new runway were to be built.  It is emphasised that these are only indicative.

See  NATS Airspace Report  page 39.

See GACC press release.

A new town the size of Crawley

30,000 - 45,000 new houses would be needed if a new runway is built at Gatwick.  That is the conclusion of a study by independent consultants jointly commissioned by the West Sussex County Council and the Gatwick Diamond Initiative.  The total number of houses in Crawley at present is around 40,000.


Read press release.

 Noise correction

GACC has pointed out to the Airports Commission that their Discussion Document on Aviation Noise has a serious omission.  It does not recognise that, because of the lower background noise, aircraft noise in rural areas can cause more annoyance than noise in urban areas. Thus the assertion by Gatwick Airport that far fewer people would be annoyed by a new runway at Gatwick than at Heathrow may exaggerate the situation.

See Response.

Wildlife and landscape experts oppose new runway

Dr Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive  of the Sussex Wildlife Trust warns that the idea of a second runway at Gatwick Airport is a great worry to the Trust.  Gatwick Airport at present has a huge ecological impact and adding an extra runway will make this worse.  Read his blog.

Landscape author Dave Bangs describes the value of the land which would be destroyed by a new runway.  Read his article and his expert, comprehensive and well-illustrated description of the landscape.


GACC has submitted a number of other papers to the Airports Commission.

Airport Operational Models describes why Gatwick would be unlikely to succeed as a hub, and warns of the risk of building a 'castle in the air' - with examples of runways around the world which are unused.

Phoney economics.  GACC tells the Commission not to be led astray by the exaggerated claims for economic benefits peddled by the consultants employed by the aviation industry.

Making best use of existing runways.  GACC suggests higher tax on full runways so as to match supply and demand.

Dodgy forecastsGACC suggests that the forecasts of ever-increasing air travel may not be reliable.

Economic Rubbish

A study by GACC shows that the claims by Gatwick Airport that a new runway would bring huge economic benefits are rubbish.

If Gatwick were using their claims to sell shares, they could be sued for issuing a 'fraudulent prospectus'.


The proposal for a high speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick attracted much attention in 2011.  It has been rubbished by many airlines, and by both Heathrow and Gatwick airports -

  • if deep-bored, it would be vastly expensive for little benefit
  • if not deep-bored it would do huge environmental damage
  • it would not be straight, and thus it is doubtful if it could do the journey in 15 minutes as claimed
  • no account of time to walk to and from stations
  • double immigration and customs
  • no recognition that there is no space for a second runway at Gatwick. 





There have been several attempts by airlines to use Gatwick as a hub airport.  All have failed.


See GACC document.

The construction of any new runway at Gatwick is ruled out before August 2019 by a legal agreement between BAA and West Sussex County Council. The agreement applies to whoever owns Gatwick, and could only be overturned by legislation which would need to be passed by both Houses of Parliament.
In 1979 BAA, then the British Airports Authority was seeking planning permission to build the North Terminal. They promised (as they did with T5 at Heathrow) that if they got the terminal, they would never go on to ask for a new runway. So West Sussex County Council asked them to put their promise in the form of a legal agreement. BAA were prepared to do so because they were aware that any new runway was ruled out by the constraints of the site.


In addition to the environmental objections outlined above, there are strong economic arguments against a new runway.  

  1. The main reason why air travel has expanded so fast in recent years is that it receives huge tax concessions - no fuel tax, no VAT, duty free sales. These far exceed the air passenger duty.  Based on Treasury figures, the absence of fuel duty and VAT results in a loss of revenue of around £12 billion a year, while APD brings in around £3 billion.  Thus the total tax subsidy is around £9 billion a year, an average of £90 for each return flight from the UK.
  2. In 2003 the Department for Transport computer model showed that if air travel was taxed at the same rate as car travel the rate of growth of air travel would be halved, and there would be no need for any new runways.  Further information see Hidden Cost of Flying, pages 19-22. 
  3. GACC is not opposed to air travel but believes it should in theory pay the same rate of tax as other industries, and be subject to the same climate change restraints as other industries. 
  4. There are practical reasons why it is difficult for one country alone to impose tax on aviation fuel, or to impose VAT on airline tickets.  But it would be bad economics to build new infrastructure to meet a level of demand which is artificially inflated.
  5. A new Gatwick runway, designed to double the number of flights, would conflict with the climate change target set in 2010 by the Government, that aviation CO2 emissions should be reduced to the 2005 level by 2050 - unless growth were to be constrained at regional airports.
  6. The economy of the region surrounding Gatwick is already too reliant on the airport and far from exacerbating that risk there is a need for diversification, particularly into activities supporting a low carbon economy.

Blight warning

GACC has warned that plans for a new runway may blight over 10,000 houses.  Gatwick Airport Ltd have been asked to extend their existing scheme, which only covers about 280 houses.  See press release with full explanation.

GACC has joined with environmental groups at other London airports to suggest that any airport which wishes to be considered as a site for a new runway must produce a scheme to alleviate blight.  See letter.

See also reply from Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission.  In the Interim Report of the Commission, however, it is merely left to individual airports to deal with hard cases.(see paragraphs 7.15 - 7.19)

Gatwick history 

Tangled Wings:  Gatwick seen through green-tinted glasses  by Brendon Sewill, chairman of GACC, tells the story of Gatwick as seen from the nearby village of Charlwood, and how proposals for a second runway were defeated in 1970, in 1993, and in 2003.

Full of of fascinating facts, such as that Winston Churchill was unhappy about the process for choosing the location of Gatwick with no space for a second runway

Details and how to order here.


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