Responding to the Airports Commission’s interim announcement, campaigners vow to fight any expansion at Heathrow and at Gatwick

The long-awaited interim report from the Airports Commission has now been released. After leaks that Heathrow had been the main choice for another runway, this was confirmed. The shortlist sets out 3 main options: the north west runway at Heathrow, (not demolishing Sipson, but putting it right under the flight path); the northern runway option of the Heathrow Hub concept, which had suggested two runways, built west of the existing ones; and a second runway at Gatwick. Stansted is ruled out. Most Thames estuary options are ruled out, but the Isle of Grain proposal will be given further consideration and is not yet “ruled in or ruled out”. The Commission will be deciding over the next 18 months on whether the runway should be at Gatwick or at Heathrow. There is already fury over much of west London, that people face not only uncertainty for the next year and a half, till the Commission’s final report in summer 2015, but also the nightmare of a massive increase in the number of flights. The announcement will act as the trigger to 18 months of intense campaigning against Heathrow expansion, and against Gatwick expansion.  John Stewart, chair of HACAN, said that at Heathrow “The scale of the opposition will be so great that we believe that they are politically undeliverable and should have been dropped at this stage.”


Campaigners vow to fight any expansion at Heathrow.

The Airports Commission’s interim report:

IN: Gatwick and Heathrow

OUT: Stansted;

Estuary neither in or out until the Summer

DROPPED:  Runway to the South West of Heathrow Airport

DROPPED:  Heathrow North Option (demolishing Sipson)

IN:  Heathrow North West Option

IN:  Heathrow Hub Northern Runway

 See Gatwick press release from GACC below.


17.12.2013 (HACAN)

Heathrow campaigners branded the Airport Commission’s Interim Report, issued today, as ‘the trigger to 18 months of intense campaigning against Heathrow expansion’. 

The Commission argues that there will be the need for one new runway in London and the South East by 2030.  Over the next 18 months the Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, will assess whether that runway should be at Gatwick or Heathrow.

The report has rejected plans to expand Stansted.  Sir Howard Davies has real doubts about the viability of an Estuary Airport.  The only Estuary option he will assess is the Isle of Grain, and he proposes to rule it in – or out – in 6 months time, when there is better information on transport links. 

Davies has said that he does not believe two new runways will be required for the foreseeable future.

At Heathrow, the Commission has dropped the option of a new runway to the south west of the airport, largely because of the difficulties posed by the reservoirs.  It has also dropped plans for a new runway to the north, demolishing Sipson.

The Commission is to look at two Heathrow options in more detail:

  • a runway to be built to the North West of the existing airport, as proposed by Heathrow Airport.  This would require significant demolition in Longford and Harmondsworth.
  • The new northern runway proposed by the promoters of the ‘Heathrow Hub’.  Their proposal is move the existing northern runway two miles further west and extend it so that a new runway is created.  One of the two runways would be used for landings; the other for take-offs.

These are shown in the illustrations below.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, which represents residents under the Heathrow flights paths, said, “Although Davies’s proposals focus less on Heathrow than had been rumoured, there is little doubt they will act as the trigger to 18 months of intense campaigning against Heathrow expansion”.

He added, “The scale of the opposition will be so great that we believe that they are politically undeliverable and should have been dropped at this stage.”

Sir Howard Davies will also be recommending short-term measures which could be implemented within the next five years.

He wants to see:

  • Better use of airspace
  • Improved surface access to existing airports
  • Some experiments which allow more night flights before 6am in exchange for longer respite periods

The final report of the Airports Commission is due to be published in summer 2015, two months after the next General Election. 




Davies believes that there is only demand for 1 new runway in London and the South East for the foreseeable future.  Therefore a 4 runway Heathrow has been ruled out.

Gatwick in – Davies will assess the merits of a second runway at Gatwick.

Heathrow in – Davies will assess the merits of a 3rd runway at Heathrow

–  he has ruled out the southern option and the ‘Sipson’ option

–  he will look at a new runway to the North West of the Airport, as proposed by Heathrow Airport

–  he will look at the northern runway proposed by the promoters of the Heathrow Hub: The existing northern runway would be extended at one or both ends.  The result is that it becomes two separate, in-line runways – one for aircraft landing and one for taking off.  The promoters argue that, because the runway is further west, it will reduce noise over West London but Heathrow Airport have rejected it because it would mean all-day flying on the northern runway, i.e. residents would get no respite.

Stansted out  – rejected.  Davies has ruled out any more runways at Stansted.  He has cited three reasons:

– New runways would create significant problems with the crowded airspace in the region (it is one of the busiest pieces of airspace in Europe)

–  Expansion of Stansted might impact adversely on Luton and London City Airports

– The regeneration benefits would be minimal in an area with one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country

Estuary Airport – neither in nor out.   Davies recognizes it has benefits in terms of noise but has major concerns about it:

 – It may well infringe the EU Habitats Directive, particularly the clause which requires all other options for airports to be seen to fail before it can be proceeded with.

 – Surface access would be problematic and costly

 – The airlines are not at all keen on it and may be reluctant to use it. 




Documents from the Airports Commission

Airports Commission: interim report
PDF, 4.34MB, 228 pages

Airports Commission: interim report – appendix 1 assessment of short- and medium-term options

PDF, 157KB, 33 pages


Airports Commission: interim report – appendix 2 assessment of long-term options

PDF, 145KB, 38 pages


Airports Commission: interim report – appendix 3 technical appendix

PDF, 1.36MB, 116 pages





This is how the north west of Heathrow looks at present:

Heathrow map north west



Illustrations of the two runways on the short list:

The Heathrow north west option, from

Heathrow north west runway option 31.7.2013

Heathrow northwest runway option


The northern runway option of the Heathrow hub plan:

Heathrow hub runways

Heathrow hub north runway

Illustrations taken from


By contrast, in the submission to the Airports Commission from Heathrow airport, they proposed runways as shown below:

Heathrow expansion options





Gatwick wide spaced runway




Heathrow will be hoping that runways 1 – 3 miles further west will make a reduction to the noise suffered by those under flight paths. In reality, the reduction in noise per plane will be absolutely minimal, and the increase in their number will be huge.



Gatwick included in short-list

17.12.2013  (GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)

This is no surprise.  For the past year GACC has assumed that Gatwick would be included in the short-list of potential sites for a new runway.  Now we know that only the so-called ‘wide-spaced’ runway option will be examined – the one that would cause most environmental damage.

Brendon Sewill, chairman of GACC, said:  ‘Now the battle is for real.  The battle lines are drawn.   Now the spotlight is on Gatwick the next step will be to examine the runway plans in detail, and it will be found that Gatwick is an unsuitable site.  It is too small, it can never be a four-runway hub, and the ‘constellation’ concept (London with three airports each with two runways) is coming unstuck.   Research shows that no other city in the world has two competing hubs.[1]

GACC agrees with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB, WWF and other national environmental organisations that any new runway cannot be reconciled with the UK’s obligations under the Climate Change Act.[2]

We are delighted that our friends at Stansted have had the threat to their homes and environment lifted.  Over the past 10 years they have fought a good fight and won a worthy victory.  Now  we at Gatwick must do the same.  We have done it before in 1970, 1993, and 2003 and we will do it again.

Georgia Wrighton, Director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Sussex) said:  ‘A second runway at Gatwick, together with sprawling development and urbanisation anticipated on a massive scale, would concrete over cherished open countryside. A heady cocktail of increased flights, HGVs and cars would erode the tranquillity of rural communities, and the health and quality of life of people living under its shadow.   The national obsession with expansion will land a disaster on the countryside whilst making runaway climate change unstoppable. Instead of airport expansion we need genuine support for and promotion of alternatives.’

Andy Smith, Director of CPRE Surrey:   ‘Surrey is already struggling to cope with being squeezed between Heathrow and Gatwick airports, with serious environmental impacts in terms of noise and air pollution, both from flights and from road traffic. These problems would become significantly worse with a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick, which would undoubtedly make the quality of life worse for communities across Surrey, and would lead to new pressures on the beleaguered Green Belt.’

Sewill added:  ‘A new runway used to full capacity would cause substantial environmental damage to all the towns and villages for many miles around Gatwick.[3]   In addition to the usual issues of noise, pollution and climate change, one of the emerging concerns is that making Gatwick larger than Heathrow would lead to the urbanisation of much of Surrey and Sussex.   Doubling the number of airport jobs plus an influx of new firms (as envisaged by the Gatwick Diamond business association) would mean that a large number of workers would be attracted into the area from the rest of the UK or from the EU, with a need for extra housing equivalent to a new town the size of Crawley.[4]   The resulting pressure on schools, hospitals, roads and railways, and on the countryside is beginning to worry many councils.  Once people recognise that the threat is real, and that a new runway is not just a strip of concrete, there will be tidal wave of opposition.

The Airports Commission will now require all the short-listed airports to produce an environmental impact assessment.   GACC will be watching like a hawk to ensure that Gatwick does not try to use its expensive PR consultants to gloss over the impact.[5] 

[1]   Analysis of Global Hub Airports.  JLS Consulting October 2013.

[2]   Aviation Environment Federation.


[4]  According to research commissioned by West Sussex County Council and the Gatwick Diamond business association.  Implications of changes to airport capacity – slides 2013 (page 17)