Gatwick Airport is moving ‘far too fast’ with plans to bring its standby runway into full-time use, the leader of Mid Sussex District Council has said.
Use of the standby runway was one of three options listed in Gatwick’s expansion masterplan, alongside more intense use of the existing main runway and safeguarding land south of the airport for a possible new runway in the future.
At a full council meeting on Wednesday night, Jonathan Ash-Edwards told councillors that he and the other leaders in West Sussex had written to Gatwick expressing concern at the airport’s approach to the matter – ‘particularly the very fast timetable’.
They also called for the airport to ‘better engage’ with local authorities on the issue.
Mr Ash-Edwards said the leaders then met with senior airport management in Crawley to hear more about the expansion plans laid out in the masterplan.
He said: “There is a lot at stake. Certainly this council has already put on record concerns around the infrastructure and environmental impact in the first consultation.
“A lot is at stake, not just for Gatwick, but also for local communities. Councils do have a level of leverage in that process. We must be sure that the views of the local community – whatever Gatwick do – are well represented.”
The meeting was told that using the standby runway full time, along with more intense use of the main runway, would see passenger numbers at Gatwick rise to 70m by 2032.
In 2018, Heathrow recorded 80.1m passengers.
To make any changes, Gatwick will have to submit a planning application to the planning inspectorate.
When asked about a possible timescale, Mr Ash-Edwards said the airport was ‘keen to get on with it’, adding that the standby runway could be in full use by the mid 2020s.
He also called on the airport to publish its plans as quickly as possible to allow local people and local councils to fully scrutinise the proposals, adding: “One of the issues that we’ve raised is that Gatwick are, in many respects, seeking to go far too fast in my view.
“It is important that there is proper scrutiny of their proposals before they go too far down the line.”
A spokesman for Gatwick said: “Gatwick consulted on its 2018 draft masterplan late last year, which set out potential scenarios for the airport’s ongoing development and sustainable growth.
“We are currently analysing the responses to the 12-week public consultation and extensive engagement with local authorities and communities.
“We plan to publish a report on the consultation and the final masterplan in the near future.
“If we were to take forward the proposals to bring the standby runway into routine use, we would follow a statutory planning process including a formal public consultation.
“Gatwick regularly engages with our local councils and communities through many channels and would continue to do so constructively as part of any future developments.”