Gatwick bidders say second runway is vital

Comment on this story by GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)
The bidders almost have to include a second runway in order to satisfy the Competition
Commission.   That does not mean that it will be built.     No runway can be built
before 2019.


25.4.2009   (Evening Standard)

by Robert Lea and Martin Bentham

The prospect of a second runway at Gatwick increased dramatically today as it
emerged that all three bidders for the airport are including one in their plans.

It comes amid a furious debate about the expansion of airports in the South-East.

The Evening Standard can reveal that despite concerns about pollution and the
environment, offers to be tabled on Monday by the rival companies each argue that
a second runway is crucial.

The plans — which come despite an earlier government pledge that no new runway
would be built until at least 2019 — are certain to trigger huge protests by local
campaign groups.

Protesters claim that any new runway would double carbon emissions, damage or
destroy at least three sites officially classed as "of outstanding natural beauty"
and sweep away significant chunks of green belt land. The prospect of a second
runway has been revived following a decision by the Competition Commission to
force BAA, Gatwick’s current owner, to sell the airport.

At the time of the pledge not to build a second runway, BAA was happy to bow
to campaigners’ opposition because it wanted to concentrate its expansion plans
on its other London airports at
Heathrow and Stansted.

All the new bidders, however, are understood to regard a second runway as vital
if they are to be able to compete effectively with BAA and improve services for

"Gatwick is the busiest single runway airport in the world," said one insider.

"It is clear that any new owner in for the long haul at Gatwick will want to
build another runway.

"It is well known construction would not be able to start until 2019 but that
means the winning bidder will need to start the planning process almost immediately."

Any decision to build a second runway would cause huge political controversy
and would also be likely to trigger a prolonged battle with local residents’ groups
and environmental campaigners.

A large area of land to the north of Gatwick is designated as green belt, while
much of the remaining area surrounding the airport remains relatively undeveloped
and includes woodland and several historic villages.

Opponents are also concerned about the substantial increase in noise and pollution,
both from aircraft and extra road traffic, that would result.

The three bidders for Gatwick are the Manchester Airport Group, Global Infrastructure
Partners and the Lysander consortium. Terra Firma, the private equity company
which owns EMI, could yet turn up as backer of one of the bids.


see also

Note by GACC    (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)   April 2009
Why a new Gatwick runway is a non-starter
Before 2019 –

  A cast iron legal agreement prevents the construction of any new runway before
August 2019;

  The agreement runs with the land, so the sale of Gatwick will make no difference;

  It could only be overturned by an Act of Parliament;

  The Government has decided that the legal agreement should not be overturned;

  The situation would not change with a change of government:   the Conservative
and Lib Dem Parties have stated that they are opposed to a new runway at Gatwick;

  Even if legislation were introduced, it would probably not be passed by the
House of Lords who traditionally disapprove of using legislation to overturn private

After 2019 –

  There is no physical space for a new runway between the towns of Horley and Crawley.   As British Airways has commented, the current plans  (1) show the runways so
close together that the airport could not operate efficiently;   (2)

  A change in the ownership of Gatwick is not going to alter the topography of
the area; (3)

  If the pressure of public opposition defeats the Stansted and Heathrow proposals,
there are good reasons to suppose that the opposition would be even more fierce
from the articulate and environmentally conscious population around Gatwick;    (4)

  Over 80 councils and environmental groups, and every local MP, are opposed
to a new runway;

  The SERAS study by the Government before the Aviation White Paper found that
a new Gatwick runway scored low on economic benefit but high on environmental

  Any new runway would be inconsistent with the Government’s climate change target
of an 80% cut in CO2 emissions;

  the Government has stated that airport expansion is ‘conditional’ on aviation
emissions being no higher in 2050 than in 2005, and this is only credible if the
growth in air travel is restrained;

  There are major uncertainties ahead – after the recession air travel may not
resume its previous trend, the cost of oil may rise again, a future Government
may decide to tax aviation fuel, or the emissions trading scheme may prove unexpectedly
tough – and these uncertainties will make any new owner of Gatwick cautious about
investing in a new runway;

  Gatwick is not popular with airlines:   it has a reputation as the graveyard
for Laker, British Caledonian, and Dan Air.    

  There have been several proposals by Governments or by the BAA for an extra
Gatwick runway, in 1953, in 1970, in 1991 and in 2002.   All have been dropped
because on close examination the constraints of the site made it impracticable.
 1.   As in the Air Transport White Paper

 2.   Response to the Air Transport consultation 2003

 3.   Gatwick is at present 674 hectares compared with Charles de Gaulle at 3,200
hectares.   The topography is illustrated in the GACC booklet Gatwick – why a new
runway won’t work.

 4.   For example, Surrey, Sussex and Kent each have more CPRE members than any
other county