Last week Gatwick announced its “Master Plan”. This now goes out to an intense planning process through the “Development Consent Order” prior to being submitted to the Secretary of State. Gatwick will engage in another consultation with the public next year.
While Gatwick is keen to reiterate that it is “no longer actively pursuing plans for an additional runway” their plans envisage a very significant increase in flights and passengers. By widening and shifting the standby emergency runway and bringing it into routine use alongside maximising the use of the existing runway Gatwick expects to deliver a very significant increase in the number of flights.
Overtime the increase equates to millions of additional passenger journeys with Gatwick getting much closer to existing annual passenger numbers at Heathrow. This is in addition to Gatwick safeguarding land for a potential additional (by then, under their plans, third) runway in the future.
Gatwick’s plans envisage an extra 20,000 jobs at the airport and, naturally, an increase in local economic activity. More intensive use of existing assets would also be likely to generate extremely positive financial returns for the airport.
Economic expansion and extra employment is of course welcome.
However expansion can only be entered into with our eyes wide open. Extra passenger journeys require rail and road networks to support them: having quizzed Gatwick management and our rail operators I will require a lot more evidence that this is deliverable and sustainable. Unlike Heathrow which has the benefit of a more accessible location for passengers and multiple public transport routes to the airport, heavy infrastructure investment is already required locally simply to meet the challenge of our increasing population and to maintain resilience on extremely heavily used routes.
Likewise extra jobs are always to be welcomed but employees require transportation or local housing or both – putting extra strain on taut infrastructure.
Airports, Airlines and Governments globally are putting resources into making flights quieter and less environmentally damaging than is currently the case. This is essential as we work to achieve our ambitious but vital goals on climate change. At a local level making sure that expansion plans are practical and deliverable in the context of the local community is equally vital and the answer cannot simply be assumed.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Quin attended the Southwater Funfest on Sunday which was designed, organised and run by the Southwater Youth Project. A huge amount of work went into this great local event.