Gatwick Chairman writes to David Cameron re-hashing unconvincing claims on desirability of its 2nd runway

Gatwick has made its last ditch attempt to persuade the government to let it have another runway. It is thought likely that some runway decision will now be made by early September at the latest, if it is not made before about 18th July.  Gatwick Chairman Sir Roy McNulty has written to David Cameron, hoping to persuade him that Gatwick will  not cost the air passenger any more than £15 per flight.  Gatwick claims they can manage the noise levels,  though are not entirely clear how. They hope sharing out the noise over more people will keep the numbers within the 57 dB and the 55 Lden to manageable levels. They hope to get the runway started before the next election, thereby not having given the electorate the change to vote on the matter – as the Airports Commission announcement  in July 2015 was deliberately after the last election in May 2015. They claim there will be no cost to the taxpayer, but there are estimates of possibly £12 billion by TfL for the necessary transport work to deal with another 40 million passengers.  Gatwick hopes its paltry £46.5 million offer will cover all that.  And Gatwick claims it will never have an air pollution problem – rather ignoring the pollution caused by the inevitable traffic, as there is inadequate public transport.  Looked at in detail, the offers (like those of Heathrow a few weeks earlier) are very threadbare  indeed.    AirportWatch comments, and links to evidence, on the letter copied below. 



Gatwick lobbies David Cameron with open letter on third runway

West Sussex airport makes eight pledges to bolster its case over Heathrow’s as pressure mounts on PM to make a decision
By Rowena Mason, Political correspondent
7.6.2016 ( Guardian)
Gatwick has mounted a fresh lobbying drive to secure a third runway instead of Heathrow, sending an open letter David Cameron in which it promises to speed up its timetable and cap passenger charges.
The airport set out eight pledges designed to sway the prime minister as he faces a tricky political decision soon after the EU referendum.
With pressure for him to settle the matter within weeks, both Gatwick and Heathrow have begun to step up their efforts to convince politicians and the public of their case.
Howard Davies’ airport commission recommended a third runway be built at Heathrow, but Cameron eventually delayed the decision until this summer.
Despite promising a decision in 2015, the government said it needed more time to examine the environmental case. In reality, however, the new timetable prevented a clash between Downing Street and the Tories’ London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith.
With officials, business and infrastructure experts urging him to make up his mind, Cameron and his cabinet will likely have to make a decision over the summer, depending on whether the government is ousted or in turmoil in the aftermath of the EU vote.
Gatwick’s letter commits to capping the number of people affected by aircraft noise at much lower levels than Heathrow, [how on earth could it fail to do that, bearing mind that more people live around Heathrow in the suburbs?] keeping passenger charges at a maximum of £15 [that is £15 inflation- linked, and if there is some as yet unspecified agreement with the government] and no requirements for taxpayer subsidy [that may be true for the runway and terminal, but the extra costs of all the infrastructure including road improvements, rail improvements, social facilities, hospitals, schools etc will not be paid by Gatwick at all].
Stewart Wingate, the airport’s chief executive, said choosing Gatwick would solve a political conundrum for the prime minister and end up “securing his legacy”. [Meaning an appeal to personal vanity – actually, whose legacy?] 
“He would be able to break ground on a new runway before the next general election, and whoever is prime minister after him would be able to open the new runway before the following election in 2025,” he said.
Choosing Gatwick would mean Cameron did not have to go back on the “no ifs, not buts” pledge he made in 2009 not to allow a third runway at Heathrow. He might also find it easier to get through parliament, given the number of senior Tory MPs in marginal seats who oppose Heathrow expansion. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, is also against a third runway at Heathrow.
There have been reports, however, that Heathrow is now considered to have overcome the environmental hurdles that were holding back a decision in its favour late last year, and many in the government are convinced of the economic case for a hub airport. [Heathrow has not been able to meet the requirements. It has not control of much of the extra traffic, and therefore the NO2 pollution; it cannot add 50% more planes over increasingly densely populated areas without increasing noise; and it has only made very implausible and carefully worded offers on limiting night flights, which are less generous than they would appear at first sight. Link ]. 
Heathrow has already agreed to curb night flights [but actually very little better indeed than now  Link ] if permission is granted for a third runway, and has announced measures it says meet all the conditions set by the airports commission for its expansion plan.
As well as banning all arrivals and departures before 5.30am, the west London airport has said it would support the introduction of an independent noise authority, and pledged not to add new capacity unless it can do so without delaying UK compliance with EU air quality limits.
It also revealed that it would accept any government decision to rule out building a fourth runway in the future.
Those with knowledge of the decision believe it will ultimately be a choice for the prime minister himself, but in theory it will be agreed by an airport subcommittee made up of Cameron; the chancellor, George Osborne; the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin; the environment secretary, Liz Truss; the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin; the communities secretary, Greg Clark; and the chief whip, Mark Harper.
The whole cabinet, including members such as Justine Greening, Theresa May, Greg Hands and Philip Hammond, whose constituencies are affected by Heathrow flight paths , are also meant to agree the choice.


Gatwick Board writes to the Prime Minister setting out eight new pledges guaranteeing Britain a new runway by 2025

07/06/2016  ( Gatwick Airport Press Release)

On behalf of the Board and Shareholders of Gatwick Airport Limited, Chairman Sir Roy McNulty has today written to the Prime Minister setting out a series of pledges which offer a road map to delivering a new runway for Britain.

The pledges to the Prime Minister that Gatwick has outlined today represent a fair deal for the UK and cover:

  • The deliverability of Gatwick’s new runway
  • Guaranteed and balanced economic growth across the UK
  • A cap on passenger fares with more competition
  • The pledge that Gatwick will require no taxpayer funds
  • Gatwick’s legal air quality
  • A cap on the number of people most affected by noise
  • An industry-leading compensation scheme, and
  • Shareholder commitment to the second runway project.

The full text of Gatwick’s letter to the Prime Minister can be accessed here.


The letter:

The Rt Hon Mr David Cameron MP Prime Minister

No 10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing to you on behalf of our Board and shareholders to set out eight pledges Gatwick is prepared to make in the event of a Government decision for a second runway this summer. We have submitted a considerable amount of new and updated material to the Department for Transport over the last five months. We have set out in more detail how Gatwick would create a second world class airport for the UK and meet the future aviation needs of the country.  [Gatwick is not geographically well located to serve the needs of the country – anyone coming from the north has to pass Heathrow first, and probably Stansted too.  On very congested roads or rail networks.] These new pledges are in large part based upon this further work.
Airport expansion has defeated successive Governments for decades. [Probably for the good reasons that no new runways were needed, and there are insurmountable environmental reasons against].  The reason is very simple. The environmental challenges of expanding Heathrow and flying 350,000 more planes directly over the world’s foremost capital city have proved insurmountable. The legal test and public concern around air quality mean these hurdles are higher than ever today. At last, there is a credible alternative. The expiry of a 40 year moratorium on a new runway at Gatwick means Britain can finally solve this policy problem and secure the economic growth it  [Freudian slip in that the subject of the word “it” is ambiguous ….] needs at a fraction of the environmental cost of the alternatives.   [Two wrongs do not make a right]. These pledges offer the route map to making that happen.
1. A Deliverable New Runway for Britain
Subject to a Government decision by this October and the normal planning timetable, Gatwick gives an undertaking that its second runway will be operational by 2025 with planning consent granted within this Parliament. This means ground could be broken at Gatwick before the next election and the runway officially opened before the election after that.  [That is deeply undemocratic, as there was no debate about the runway issue at the May 2015 election, so this important issue would be decided without the electorate having the opportunity to choose MPs who take their point of view on this] .Our confidence in an accelerated timetable is based on further analysis of our programme, validated by independent planning and construction experts. Our scheme is comparatively simple in terms of planning and construction risks. There are no legal issues with air quality that would run the risk of being challenged in the courts. As the Airports Commission stated ‘The Gatwick Second Runway is not forecast to cause any exceedances of legal limits by 2030’. A decision for Gatwick means Britain can finally get the guarantee of the new runway it needs, providing London with two world class airports. Given the history of this debate, the importance of a runway scheme that is deliverable cannot be overstated.  [A document by Jacobs for the Airports Commission showed already that there are areas of roads to the east of Gatwick that already breach the EU air quality limit for NO2 of 40micrograms per litre.  See image on Page 9 of  link  and details at link ]. 
2. Guaranteed Economic Growth across the UK
A deliverable runway means Gatwick can pledge that Britain gets the economic boost it needs as early as possible. Given that growth in aviation is outstripping forecasts, [that is, until the next recession or the price of oil rises] this is vital. As we now know from the work of the Airports Commission itself, once corrected in accordance with the standard Treasury Assessment, the economic benefits of Heathrow and Gatwick expansion are broadly the same – as they both deliver the same amount of traffic and connections to meet the aviation needs of the UK.  [That really is not true. The Airports Commission regarded Gatwick as an airport with few long haul routes, and being predominantly a low cost leisure airport. See Sir Howard Davies letter to Patrick McLoughlin in Sept 2015   Link  ].  The Airports Commission evidence also shows that Gatwick expansion will provide the biggest boost to regional connectivity including direct services from regional airports. Norwegian Airlines  [the only airline of any size to support Gatwick’s bid for a runway] announced in March that it will base 100 new short haul and 50 new long haul aircraft at Gatwick if it has a second runway and we can be confident that other airlines will move quickly to secure a share of the additional capacity.  [Not if the fares rise. Both EasyJet ‘s Carolyn McCall and BA’s Willie Walsh, the two largest airlines at Gatwick, say they will not pay the extra costs and do not back the runway]. 
3. A Cap on Passenger Fares with More Competition
Expanding Gatwick would write the next chapter of aviation competition – one of the great success stories of recent years, as the recent Competition and Markets Authority Report highlighted. Competition keeps choice high and prices low. The consumer benefits of the BAA break up have been considerable. We want to build on this so Gatwick has put forward detailed commercial proposals that guarantee passenger charges would be subject to an inflation linked £15 firm price limit from the opening of the new runway in 2025 through to 2050.  [What Gatwick actually said, when they first made this claim in early 2015, was that if there is some unspecified agreement with Government  Link –  (Sir Roy said it is “in return for Government agreeing a 30 year contract” though exactly what that means is not explained) perhaps not to allow much competition – then they might be able to manage to keep the charges to £15. Other estimates – including the Airports Commission  -suggest the price might be perhaps £23 or higher per passenger.  Link  ]. We would expect charges to be well below this cap. We can give this guarantee as both our current charges – and the cost of our second runway scheme – are comparatively low in the context of other major European airports.
4. No Taxpayer Subsidy
Gatwick commits to funding the scheme privately and in full, with no need for billions of pounds of public subsidy. Our estimates for the Gatwick scheme include the full cost of all incremental surface access requirements. We are strongly of the view that runway expansion should be privately funded – indeed we consider that state aid within the competitive airports market would be illegal. As part of its detailed commercial proposals, Gatwick would now also be prepared to bear substantially all of the long term risks related to traffic levels, market pricing, construction and operating costs for the overall project.  [Gatwick has offered only a tiny sum, £46.5 million   Link  – (Gatwick has removed the original document offering this ) – which would scarcely scratch the surface of all the costs the taxpayer would have to fund.  Link   Transport for London anticipated costs of many billions of £s would be needed on public transport alone.  TfL estimated the cost could be £212.4 billion  Link  ].
5. Legal Air Quality
Gatwick pledges that, with a second runway, the airport will not breach the air quality limits the Government has set out. Given that this is a test of legality, there is perhaps no more important issue in this debate. In light of the vehicle emissions scandal – which arose after the Airports Commission Report was published – the UN recently called the problem of air quality ‘a global and increasing pandemic’. Gatwick has never breached air quality limit values [Just not true – research for the Airports Commission shows they have.  See above] and, working in cooperation with our neighbouring local authorities, we can be confident of delivering on this pledge with a second runway. We would not want to put Government in a position where it embarks on a new runway expansion proposal with no way of knowing whether it can be operated legally until after the runway has actually been built. This is what the relevant conditions stated by the Airports Commission mean in terms of Heathrow expansion.
6. A Cap on the Number of People Most Affected by Noise
Expansion will inevitably mean more people significantly affected by aircraft noise. The total numbers currently affected at Gatwick, whilst a fraction of Heathrow, are still considerable (3,300 at Gatwick against 270,000 at Heathrow at 57 decibels LEQ). We are acutely aware that noise is a major environmental concern around airports. Should Gatwick get a second runway, we would therefore pledge to introduce a noise contour cap of 70kmsq covering 15,000 people experiencing 57decibels LEQ noise and a wider contour cap of 175kmsq covering 40,000 people experiencing 55 decibels LDN. These limits would materially affect how a two runway Gatwick would operate in the future and would be an important consideration in the annual planning cycle around flight paths and aircraft flight frequency. We would obviously want to work out the details of how this would best be managed in consultation with local people and within the formal planning process.  [ Seems to be saying that there is a plan, but Gatwick has not yet worked it out.  Somehow it might be possible to spread the noise around enough to massage that, discredited, 57dB contour so the numbers just about fit.   This is more a matter of spreading around the misery more deviously, rather than reducing the problem.  Gatwick is pinning its hopes on the Arrivals Review recommendations, which have not yet been acted upon or tried out.  Link ].
7. An Industry Leading Compensation Scheme
We recognise, however, that noise contours are not enough [noise contours don’t DO anything] and that we need to go further. Uniquely, alongside a wider programme of compensation, Gatwick is pledging to pay £1000 per annum towards the Council Tax of those most affected by noise (57 decibels LEQ) from 2025.  [This is so old. They first made this offer in March 2014.  It is nothing new at all.  Link  All the offers are just re-hashes of what Gatwick has said months or years ago. There are no new generous concessions.]  This will apply to tenants as well as homeowners. We believe this is the most progressive approach to compensation proposed by any major infrastructure project in the UK. [For those whose health is adversely affected, and whose house value has fallen by say £50,000, the offer of £1,000 will be regarded with the derision it deserves. Proper compensation of a substantial % of the house price, would not be contemplated by Gatwick]. 
8. Shareholder Commitment to the Second Runway
Project Gatwick’s shareholders, all of whom are leading global investors in long-term infrastructure and active in the UK, have been closely involved in the development of the Gatwick second runway proposal and have expressed their ongoing commitment to support the timely delivery and financing of this critical infrastructure project.  [By selling Gatwick for the highest price possible, if it gets planning consent?  Would the bosses stay after their massive bonuses?  Link ]
Aviation is changing fast and Gatwick offers a future proofed solution for Britain. The pledges we are making today represent a fair deal for the country – for passengers, the taxpayer and local communities.  [Seems unlikely that local communities would agree – Gatwick has not asked them, for fear of getting the “wrong” answer.  Most local councils are firmly opposed to the runway, as are all local MPs.  Link  ].  Critically they guarantee that the UK’s next runway can actually be built and operated legally so that Britain can grow.  [More cheap leisure flights by Brits, taking their spending money out of the country at an even faster rate, is not actually good for the UK economy, and certainly is not    good for jobs in the UK tourism sector. In 2015 the tourism deficit was £16.9 billion, with most of that due to air travel]. This is something everyone can unite around.
I am copying this letter to Patrick McLoughlin Secretary of State for Transport, the Airports Cabinet Sub Committee and the Cabinet Secretary. In light of the widespread interest in the debate I am also making it public.
Yours Sincerely,
Sir Roy McNulty Chairman
cc. Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport
Airports Cabinet Sub Committee
Sir Jeremy Heywood KCB CVO, Cabinet Secretary


Letter in the Times by Brendon Sewill, Chairman of GACC:
Brendon letter 8.6.2016

Comment from Sally Pavey, Chair of CAGNE:

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