GACC says they have fought off runway plans in 1970, 1993 and 2003 – and they’ll fight this one too

Responding to the news that a second, southern, runway is on the Airports Commission shortlist for further detailed consideration next year, the local community group GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) said the news was no surprise.  For the past year GACC has assumed that Gatwick would be included. Now it is clear 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. 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.   A new runway used to full capacity would cause substantial environmental damage to all the towns and villages for many miles around Gatwick.  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.  That will be fiercely opposed. GACC  has fought off plans for new runways about every 10 years, in 1970, 1993, and 2003.  And GACC say they will do it again this time.



Gatwick wide spaced runway

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)



Gatwick runway options Gatwick identified three options for a second runway, but the Davies Commission shortlisted Option 3, which would allow fully independent operation.


gatwick arty image of 2 runway airport

Gatwick’s proposed 2 runway airport



CPRE Kent also voiced their extreme disappointment at the news:


CPRE Protect Kent is disappointed with the announcement given by the Chairman of the Airports Commission today. The initial recommendation to focus the options for additional runway capacity at Heathrow or Gatwick is extremely disappointing, since we believe that there is sufficient capacity in the system.

During the consultation CPRE Protect Kent examined aviation trends throughout the UK. We found that the upward trend is diminishing, meaning that there will be fewer aircraft flying in the future. With the rise of technological innovations such as online video conferencing and increased fuel prices, we believe that passenger numbers will slowly begin to level off. This fact, combined with statistics for the current spare runway capacity of a number of airports in the south east, showed that we are unlikely to realistically need any more runway space. Stansted is only operating at around 50% capacity, whilst Gatwick also has significant runway space available. With declining aviation runway use, we believe that there is simply no requirement to build more runway space and that the countryside can be protected through more efficient use of existing capacity and the use of fewer, quieter planes.

CPRE Protect Kent welcomes the fact that the Thames Estuary airports have been dismissed from the shortlisted options. We are also pleased that the creation of an Independent Noise Authority has recommended. We hope that this authority will reduce noise, rather than simply enabling more planes to fly.

CPRE Protect Kent Director, Hilary Newport, had the following to say on the announcement:

“We are glad that Sir Howard Davies has listened to the objections to a Thames Estuary airport and not shortlisted that option. However, we are extremely disappointed that the possibility of a new hub airport at Cliffe has not been dismissed altogether and we hope that the further investigation of environmental impacts will do just that. We are also disappointed that he has failed to acknowledge the large amount of spare runway capacity currently available for use in the south east. Surely we should be making better use of existing south east airports before building any new runway capacity.”

She continued:

“Technological innovations are making frequent flying for business less necessary. The forecast of fewer aircraft flying in the future should show the Airports Commission that there simply is no need to build new aviation capacity in the south east of England.”


Reigate MP Crispin Blunt slammed the decision to include Gatwick on the shortlist, raising fears about the associated development devastating the surrounding environment.

“As far as the national and local interests of my constituents are concerned this report is nothing short of calamitous. The second runway at Gatwick airport would be a disaster for the surrounding communities and environment. My overwhelming objection remains that the level of development, associated with an airport serving three times as many passengers as it does now, would devastate the local environment and leave the UK with its major airport in the wrong place. The rail line is already at capacity as are the roads that serve Gatwick. This airport is simply not in the right place to serve as the UK’s hub or as a key part of it. Plans for new housing are already controversial given the existing constraints; quite where the 40,000 new houses are to go to house the new workers at an expanded Gatwick is beyond me. I suspect it has been beyond proper consideration in this disappointing report.”




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




Below are a few of the mentions of Gatwick in the Commission’s Interim Report:

A package of surface transport improvements to make airports with spare
capacity more attractive to airlines and passengers, including:
– the enhancement of Gatwick Airport Station;
– further work to develop a strategy for enhancing Gatwick’s road and rail


Gatwick Airport: At this site the Commission’s analysis will be based on a new
runway over 3,000m in length spaced sufficiently south of existing runway to
permit fully independent operation.


In the process, the divide between ‘low-cost’ and ‘full-service’ carriers is being
eroded. In 2012, around one fifth of passengers flying low-cost from big UK airports
like Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham were business travellers.13 Low-cost
carriers also no longer operate only to secondary airports; they account for a
substantial proportion of traffic at both Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle, and even
at Heathrow and Frankfurt some low-cost services operate


But problems are starting to emerge and are likely to get worse. Heathrow is
effectively full. Gatwick is operating at more than 85% of its maximum capacity, and
is completely full at peak times. Capacity constraints are making it more and more
difficult for airports and airlines to operate efficiently, lay on new routes, and deal with
resilience issues.


This rapid growth has seen easyJet and Ryanair grow into two of the world’s ten
largest airlines by international passenger numbers, with major bases at Gatwick
and Stansted respectively, and routes established at a large number of airports
across the UK.


The impact of the Gulf carriers on the UK market has also been substantial. Not
only have they established high frequency routes into Heathrow, which have seen
Dubai grow into the airport’s second largest passenger market after New York JFK,
but they have also opened new services from a number of UK regional airports.
Emirates now serves Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle, as well as
Heathrow and Gatwick. Both Etihad and Qatar offer services from Manchester and
Heathrow. The substantial onward route networks available from these airlines’
hubs, particularly to South Asian and Far Eastern destinations, have opened up
many new opportunities for long-haul travel from Manchester and other regional


Since its sale to Global Infrastructure Partners, Gatwick Airport has sought to
enhance its competitive position:
●● in 2011, the airport began a £1.2 billion pound investment programme to
improve its terminals and other facilities;
●● new long-haul routes have been introduced to emerging market destinations
including China, Vietnam and, from spring 2014, Indonesia;
●● in spring 2013, a second low-cost carrier, Norwegian Air Shuttle, made the
airport into its base; and,
●● the Gatwick Connect service has been implemented to facilitate transfers for
self-connecting passengers.


: Heathrow and Gatwick have the highest runway utilisation in the world(Gatwick the highest utilisation of a single runway airport).


Nonetheless, the UK does not face an immediate capacity crisis. The London
aviation market continues to be amongst the most attractive and best connected in
the world. Gatwick is responding to the continuing capacity constraints at Heathrow
by opening new long-haul routes to emerging markets and to the United States.


●● The Government should work with Network Rail and Gatwick Airport to
implement a significant enhancement of the airport station, with an emphasis on
making the station more accessible to users with luggage (which should also
enhance access for users with disabilities). The Government should pursue an
ambitious (circa £180 million) option for enhancing the station through the
construction of a new concourse and ticket hall with enhanced access to
platforms, subject to the airport providing an appropriate contribution to the
costs of the scheme.
●● There is a need to improve the suitability of the Gatwick Express rolling stock to
make it more suitable for airport users, for example by the provision of additional
luggage space. The Government should take opportunities to enhance it through
the franchising system.
●● The Government should work with train operators to promote the introduction of
paperless ticketing facilities for journeys to and from Gatwick Airport station.
●● The Government and Network Rail should accelerate work to produce a detailed
plan for the enhancement of the Brighton Main Line, with a particular emphasis
upon enhancing capacity and reliability, so as to accommodate growth in both
airport and commuter traffic. This could focus on the alleviation of particular
pinch points (such as East Croydon).

●● The Government should work with the Highways Agency to develop a forward
route strategy for the sections of the motorway network connecting to Gatwick
Airport, with a particular emphasis on the connections between the M25, M23
and the airport itself. That strategy should consider options for expanding the
slip-roads between the roads in question, which could become substantial
congestion pinch points.


In the second category of options, those relating to planning and compensation
against noise, the Commission received a range of proposals suggesting that noise
compensation arrangements should be reviewed alongside consideration of the
proposals for new runway capacity. Representations were also received indicating
that there were no effective land use policies applied to the areas around Heathrow,
Gatwick and Stansted, and that whilst the aviation industry was delivering quieter
aircraft and the size of the 57LAeq contour around airports affected by noise is
reducing, new domestic dwellings are continuing to be built therefore increasing the
size of the population within the noise affected area


The airport has attracted a number of new carriers, including airlines operating to
Far Eastern destinations (China, Vietnam and from next year Indonesia), which
might previously have been expected to operate only from a more established hub
airport. It has also introduced its Gatwick Connect service to support travellers
using the airport to self-connect between services, and from 2014 it will
accommodate the UK’s first low-cost long-haul services.

Expanding capacity at Gatwick Airport could support growth in the point-to-point
market by allowing established carriers at the airport to increase the scale of their
operations and attracting new ones. But it could also help to support and enhance
the UK’s hub status, perhaps by attracting one of the major alliances to move from
Heathrow, incentivised by greater scope for growth or the opportunity to build a
dominant position at the airport. It might equally be through the continuing growth

of self-connecting at the airport, through new partnerships between short- and
long-haul airlines operating there or through some combination of the two.
6.72 These are not mutually exclusive scenarios. Growth in point-to-point traffic, for
example, could over time provide an increasing feed market for any potential
network carrier at the airport, strengthening the incentives to move from Heathrow.
In addition, the enhanced competition for Heathrow which might be offered by an
expanded Gatwick Airport could potentially lead to further benefits for passengers
and freight users.
6.73 Gatwick’s single current runway is already operating at a high level of utilisation and
the Commission’s demand forecasts estimate that it will reach capacity within less
than ten years. This suggests that any new runway would likely be well-utilised, with
the Commission’s forecasts indicating an expanded Gatwick could operate at 70%
capacity in 2030 rising to over 95% by 2050.
6.74 Gatwick Airport Ltd has proposed that a new runway should be constructed south
of the existing one. It has identified three options: close-spaced, wide-spaced/
dependent operation and wide-spaced/independent operation. The Commission’s
assessment has focused on the last – a runway over 3,000m in length spaced
sufficiently south of the existing runway (at least 1,035m) to permit fully independent
operation. This offers the greatest increase in capacity while still having relatively low
environmental and noise impacts compared with some other potential sites. The
Commission will, however, keep this under review as it takes forward more detailed
development and appraisal. The proposal also includes related new terminal
facilities and taxiways between the new and existing runways.



 From GACC’s website: 


Gatwick is a small airport, and is confined by the towns of Horley and Crawley, and by the medieval village of Charlwood, and also by high ground to the west and the main London – Brighton railway line to the east. Charles de Gaulle Airport at Paris is five times as large.

Gatwick has one main runway, and one subsidiary runway which can be used when the main runway is not available. The two runways are too close together to be used simultaneously.

Gatwick Airport Ltd submitted  plans for a new runway to the Airports Commission on 19 July 2013 and published them on 23 July.  Three potential locations are identified, all the the south of the existing runway.

On 17 December 2013 the Airports Commission published their short-list of possible sites for a new runway.  See GACC press release.

The short-list includes the so-called ‘wide-spaced’ runway at Gatwick – very close to Crawley, and the Gatwick option with the worst environmental impact – see Gatwick Unzipped below.


Gatwick Unzipped

GACC has submitted an important paper to the Airports Commission in response to their invitation to interested bodies to comment on the various runway plans.  The paper is a detailed analysis of the Gatwick runway proposals, showing the aeronautical problems and the environmental damage that they would cause. 

Read Gatwick Unzipped.