The Runway Issue

 Retort rebutted

Gatwick have issued a 52 page retort to the Airport Commission's decision to recommend Heathrow.  GACC issued an immediate press release and undertook an analysis of Gatwick's retort, finding it full of flaws and errors. 

The Commission has, however, now published a letter from Sir Howard Davies to the Transport Secretary containing a comprehensive demolition of the points made by Gatwick.  This coincides with many of the points in our own analysis.


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.




EasyJet opposes a new Gatwick runway

easyJet, the biggest airline at Gatwick, support a new runway at Heathrow, and demolish the case for a second runway at Gatwick. Their full response to the Airports Commission here.


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

Rt Hon. Greg Clark (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, MP for Tunbridge Wells) has also expressed strong opposition to a second runway.

 Councils Opposed

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.

Who would Pay?

Since each airport is now a separate company the people who would pay for a new runway would be the passengers using that airport.  See paper by GACC chairman - Who Would Pay.

The Airports Commission in their final report suggested that a new runway would mean putting up charges at Gatwick from the current £9 per passenger to between £15 and £23.

 Rash promise

Gatwick Airport have promised not to raise airport charges above £15 for thirty years.  This is likely to make it difficult for Gatwick to raise the funds to pay for the new runway.   

See press release.




The Conservative manifesto in May 2010 stated that no new runways would be built at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.  This was agreed as the policy of the Coalition Government.

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 recommended a new runway at Heathrow although adding that Gatwick was a 'credible' alternative.



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. What the map does show is that at full capacity there would be twice as many aircraft on most flight paths.  Plus new routes over Warnham and over Copthorne, plus a new route to the east of Horsham.

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.

Serious pollution risk

GACC's response to the Airport commission's consultation on Air Quality pointed out that the Commission was seriously underestimating the pollution risks of a second runway.  And that the runway could be ruled out under a EU Directive.


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.


Woodland Trust joins campaign against new runway

The Woodland Trust with 250,000 members and supporters has weighed in against the plans for a new Gatwick runway.  Three areas of ancient woodland would be destroyed.  See Say No to ancient woodland loss at Gatwick.

 History Group horrified

The Charlwood History Group visited some of the 19 listed buildings due to be demolished if a full scale new runway is built. 

See press release.

 Why a second runway would be bad for business.

A paper published by GACC suggests that a second runway would be bad news for many of the 30,000 local businesses.  That is because it would create labour shortages, higher costs and traffic congestion.  Read paper.

See also a paper by a former senior manager for Royal Mail - Impact on Labour Market.


GACC worked closely with the Airports Commission and submitted a number of papers to them including  -

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.

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.

Runway consultation results

The results of the Gatwick Airport runway consultation in April-May 2014 were contained in an independent report by Ipsos Mori.  The number of responses in favour of each option was as follows:

Option 1   (Close parallel)       194

Option 2    (Segregated mode) 167

Option 3.   (Mixed mode)         733

None of these options        6,200

This result was so embarrassing for Gatwick Airport Ltd that they have done all they can to conceal it.  They did not mention it to the airport consultative committee or to the press.  In their report to the Airports Commission it only appears in a pie chart on page 50, nowhere in the text.


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.

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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