Secret plans revealed for second Gatwick runway

18.12.2008   (Times)


A new runway could be built at Gatwick rather than Heathrow or Stansted under
plans secretly being developed by companies bidding to buy Britain’s second largest

The Times has learnt that BAA has sent bidders a confidential memorandum with
a section entitled "Gatwick builds a second runway".

The Competition Commission effectively endorsed the idea yesterday and called
on the Government to amend its aviation policy. Its statement threatens to unravel
state policy at a time when the Cabinet is in dispute over plans to build a third
runway at Heathrow.

If Gatwick were to be expanded, up to 300 homes would have to be demolished,
but the environmental impact would be much less than that at Heathrow in West
London.   A new runway at Gatwick would mean 26,000 additional residents affected
by aircraft noise above 54 decibels, compared with 118,000 around Heathrow.

BAA, the Spanish-owned company that operates London’s three largest airports,
is attempting to sell Gatwick by early next year before it is forced to do so
by the commission.

The memorandum contains a map showing the new runway lying a kilometre south
of the existing one and only 400 metres from homes in Crawley.  BAA says that
land has been safeguarded and gives details of how the expansion could increase
maximum capacity at Gatwick from 45 million passengers a year to 80 million; 67
million people used Heathrow last year.

The Government has said that it wants the South East’s first new runway to be
built at Stansted and the second at Heathrow.

The Competition Commission said that the Government was undermining competition
and preventing operators from responding to the market.   It said: "[The Government]
should ensure that the aviation national policy statement does not unduly constrain
this market and should give consideration to the ambitions of the new owner of
Gatwick airport, including the possibility of a second runway after 2019."

BAA signed an agreement in 1979 with West Sussex County Council pledging not
to build a new runway for 40 years.

Manchester Airports Group, one of the bidders, believes that the terms of the agreement would allow the
planning process to be completed by 2018 so that building could start in 2019.

A new runway and terminal would open in 2022 or 2023.   A German bidder, Hochtief
AirPort, has told the commission that it wants the 2019 agreement overturned to
allow construction to begin even earlier.

The earliest that Heathrow’s third runway could open has slipped from 2015 to
2020 and could slip further.

Other bidders expected to offer up to £2 billion for Gatwick include Vancouver
Airports Authority, Fraport, the German airports company, and large Californian
pension funds.

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