Tom Tugendhat letter to Aviation Minister – on need for proper scrutiny of Gatwick future main runway growth

The expansion that Gatwick might perhaps eventually be allowed, by using its emergency runway as a full runway, would require proper scrutiny through the planning Development Control process (DCO). The airport might be able to handle up to an extra 50,000 annual flights by doing that.  However, more expansion and more extra annual flights could be added, by making more use of the single main runway.  That might add another 60,000 annual flights (about 16 million annual passengers).  But because there would be no physical building work required (no extra runway length or extra terminal) there would be no planning permission needed, and no chance for public scrutiny of the impacts of the gradual expansion. Now Tom Tugendhat (MP for Tonbridge & Malling) has written to Robert Courts, the Aviation Minister, to ask for a meeting to discuss this anomaly. He says the main runway growth would be “more than the aggregate growth at the 5 UK airports that are currently seeking expansion.  In each of those cases the proposed growth has been robustly scrutinised and communities have been able to have their say. The government cannot simply ignore the greater impacts at Gatwick because it has different planning position.”


Letter copied below

Letter to

Robert Courts MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 4DR

28th July 2021

Dear Robert,

You will be aware of the extensive correspondence you have had with Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) regarding the proposed main runway growth at Gatwick. I have been copied into much of it and have seen responses on the Department to GACC.

Two things clear from that correspondence. First that government policy requires any significant growth at an airport to be robustly scrutinised so that its benefits and its adverse impacts can be assessed, and an informed decision made. That is clearly right and I welcome it.

Secondly, that there has been no such scrutiny in relation to Gatwick’s proposed main runway growth, of some 16 million passengers per annum. Furthermore the government appears to have no current plans to ensure the scrutiny its policy requires will happen. That cannot be right.

I understand of course that Gatwick’s planning position is different from other major airports, and therefore that no automatic planning enquiry is triggered by its main growth plans.  However, that does not excuse the government from ensuring its policy is delivered.

I also understand that Gatwick’s separate standby runway growth plans will be reviewed through a Development Consent Order process, and I welcome that.  However, unless its scope is changed, the standby runway DCO process cannot refuse consent for main runway growth. It therefore will not achieve the scrutiny of main runway growth that is required.

Those circumstances mean that some imagination will be needed to find a different way of achieving the government’s policy in Gatwick’s unique circumstances and I’d be grateful if we could meet as soon as possible to explore how that could be done.

This is an important issue in Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling and, I understand, for many communities near the airport and under flight paths.  16 million passengers of growth will have very significant noise, climate, congestion and other impacts. It is more than the aggregate growth at the five UK airports* that are currently seeking expansion.  In each of those cases the proposed growth has been robustly scrutinised and communities have been able to have their say. The government cannot simply ignore the greater impacts at Gatwick because it has different planning position.

I look forward to meeting to discuss these important issues.


Tom Tugendhat

MP for Tonbridge and Malling

  • * the 5 airports currently trying to expand are Bristol, Southampton, Leeds Bradford, Stansted and Manston.

See earlier:

CAGNE and GACC join call to suspend expansion of Gatwick  – and an airport expansion moratorium

10th May 2021

Both Gatwick groups have joined 14 other UK community groups from eight airports in calling for all airport expansion to be halted, because of the Government’s move to include international aviation in carbon budgets, from 2033, and legislation. The campaigners’ letter to the Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps) and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (Robert Jenrick) to ‘suspend the determination of all applications to increase the physical capacity of UK airports, or their approved operating caps, until noise and climate policies were in place, against which such applications could be judged.’  There is due to be a consultation on UK aviation carbon emissions in the next month or so. It is irresponsible act for Government to allow any airport expansion plans before this, prejudging the outcome of its net zero aviation and low carbon transport consultation.  Peter Barclay, chairman of GACC, added: “Airport expansion is completely inconsistent with the Government’s new approach to aviation emissions and the formal advice from the Committee on Climate Change.”   See full article at

The letter


CAA says Gatwick proposal for a 2nd runway would not need airspace change, for the 50,000 extra flights on a 2nd runway

Gatwick airport has said will push ahead with plans for a 2nd runway after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ruled that the plan for another runway will not require changes to the airspace around Gatwick. That had potentially threatened to pose a significant barrier.  The CAA (paid for by the airlines) that is the regulator for the airlines, said that there would be no change to the design of flight paths in or out of Gatwick as a direct result of the new runway, adding: “The environmental impact relating to this proposal is assessed as nil.” (sic) [Presumably they are ignoring the carbon emissions which will not, of course, be nil].  Gatwick wants to have an extra 50,000 annual flights (up from around 285,000 now) by using its existing emergency runway as a full runway, part of the time. The airspace consent by the CAA effectively allows Gatwick to push ahead with a DCO (Development Consent Order), which is needed for the development, Currently the airport has been hit very hard by the Covid pandemic, with flights down by over 98% compared to last year, airlines facing almost no air travel demand, saying they may leave Gatwick, for Heathrow.

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Gatwick’s Big Enough Campaign writes to local authorities to ask that all Gatwick expansion plans should be properly scrutinised

The newly formed coalition of community groups, opposing the expansion of Gatwick airport and the noise made by its flights, has written to all the Leaders and CEOs of all Gatwick’s Host and Neighbouring local authorities. The letter proposes actions that Councils could take to ensure that all Gatwick’s proposed growth is properly scrutinised, as is the case at every other major UK airport. In particular it urges Councils to ask the Secretary of State for Transport to direct that Gatwick’s main runway development should be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) requiring development consent (a DCO) using his powers under section 35 of the Planning Act 2008. This would ensure that there was proper scrutiny of all proposed growth, of more flights on the existing runway – as well as more flights by using the current emergency runway as a full runway.  As things stand at present, the approximately 60% increase in flights that Gatwick plans would not require any particular planning scrutiny, while the use of the emergency runway (about 40% of the growth) would.  This is an anomaly. The groups are also keen to discuss the issues with the affected councils.

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