Bosses at London/Gatwick have confirmed there will be a further consulting period linked to the airport’s expansion proposals.
Members of the public and other stakeholders will soon have the chance to share their views on updated highway designs as part of the wider future-proofing of the West Sussex gateway.
The revised plans include a significantly redesign of the North Terminal junction, the addition of a new lane westbound over the Brighton main rail line and a third lane being added to the A23 approaching Longbridge roundabout. Previously published proposals for the South Terminal roundabout “remain largely unchanged”, according to an airport spokesperson.
Stewart Wingate, CEO at Gatwick Airport said: “When we launched our initial public consultation last September, we wanted to hear from people and interested groups on our plans to bring our existing northern runway into regular use alongside our main runway.
“Following feedback on our proposals, we have listened and taken the decision to amend several aspects of these plans, particularly our highways designs, so we are keen to get further feedback from local people and other stakeholders on these updated changes before we take our plans forward.”
Since its arch-rival Heathrow was given the greenlight for a third runway in late 2020, bosses at Gatwick have been examining “low impact” ways of unlocking new capacity by using existing runway infrastructure. If approved, the proposals will see the airport’s northern runway (08L/26R) brought into “routine use” for departing aircraft, by repositioning its centre-line further north by 39ft. All arriving aircraft would continue to use the current main airstrip (08R/26L). Gatwick officials the plan could be operational by summer 2029.
At present, only one runway is in use at any one time, with the shorter northern counterpart only seeing scheduled air traffic when the main landing strip is undergoing maintenance or is otherwise out of operation – for example, if an aircraft experiences a technical problem that renders it unable to move.
A much larger consultation took place last autumn and sought the views of thousands of local interested parties. This new outreach exercise, which is due to run for just over six weeks from June 14 – July 27, 2022, is focused on roadway access around the airport site.
In 2019, Gatwick’s single runway operation chalked up a remarkable 46.6 million passengers on board more than 280,000 flights. However, with its traditionally higher exposure to leisure and more discretionary air traffic, the West Sussex facility had been among the hardest hit of the major London area airports during COVID-19, although it is now experiencing a rapid bounce-back.
With the prospect of dual-runway operations by the end of the decade, management have to consider the wider impact of increased passenger numbers on the transport ecosystem in and around the airport.
While the plans may be relatively low impact with regard to the airport footprint, any expansion of this nature inevitably comes with a high degree of political scrutiny. In 1979, the British Airports Authority, the then-owners of Gatwick Airport, signed a legally binding agreement with West Sussex County Council not to build another runway for 40 years.
With this accord lapsing in 2019, the opportunities to revisit expansion began to be realised by its current owners – VINCI Airports, who purchased a 50.01% stake in the airport in 2019, and Global Infrastructure Partners, which manages the remaining 49.99% interest.
The public consultation marks the first in a seven-stage Development Consent Order (DCO) process. As the proposed plans are considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, the airport intends to apply for a DCO to build and operate the scheme. The second step in the seven-stage plan sees a refinement and submission of the DCO, followed by examination, decision and ultimately post-decision outcomes into 2024 and beyond.
Gatwick officials have confirmed that materials to accompany this latest consultation will be made available on the gatwickairport.com/future plans website from June 14, along with details on how to respond.