Stansted’s plans for an immediate doubling of flight capacity have also met with support from local authorities, in contrast to the opposition generally met by Heathrow.
London Gatwick has submitted to the Airports Commission a proposal for a second runway (pictured). Stewart Wingate, London Gatwick Chief Executive, said: “A two-runway Gatwick, as part of a constellation of three major airports surrounding London, will also provide flexibility in an industry where the only constant is change.”
Gatwick argues that the position of London today, as the best connected World City with the largest aviation market in the world, is not the result of an outstanding ‘hub’ airport. Rather, they say it is the result of consistent government policy to liberalise the airline market and stimulate competition amongst airlines and airports. Other World Cities, including New York, Tokyo, Paris and Moscow, also operate a multi-airport or ‘constellation’ system, and handle greater numbers of passengers than cities relying on a single ‘hub’.
Heathrow argue that the economics of a hub airport – enabling much more effective pooling of short-haul traffic on to intercontinental flights – are such that the UK must have one. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, agrees. However, Gatwick and Stansted are arguing that a “constellation” of two runway airports surrounding the city is a more effective way to grow capacity.
Public Sector Support
Outside this argument though, it is notable that both Stansted and Gatwick have support from the local authorities concerned. Gatwick has already gained support in principle from West Sussex County Council, Kent County Council, and the local LEP, with Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, saying: “The county council has voted to support expansion of Gatwick, in principle, because of the huge potential economic benefits for West Sussex.”
Paul Gresham, Chair of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, a publicly funded inward investment body, said: “The £19.2bn Gatwick Diamond economy has developed over fifty years as a result of the location of London Gatwick Airport. International businesses have already chosen the Gatwick Diamond to locate their UK and European headquarters and many more will be attracted as Gatwick grows its routes with a second runway proposal.
“Thousands of new knowledge sector jobs will be created; transport, housing and town infrastructure developed and UK Plc will be benefit. Businesses are telling us that they want, and support a second runway and that Gatwick Diamond Initiative is delighted to support Gatwick’s submission to the Airports Commission.”
Stephen King, Deputy Director, London Stansted Cambridge Consortium – an consortium of local authorities inside and outside London – says: “The consortium fully supports Stansted’s ambition to double in its current size, to its full agreed capacity of 35 million passengers per year, with a range of new, long-haul destinations.”
This support contrasts with the opposition from authorities aligned to the 2M Group, like Hammersmith & Fulham and Wandsworth, Hounslow – who want the airport to stay open, but not grow, and Hillingdon, who would prefer it closed.
The airport supports 76,000 direct jobs, a figure which rises to 170,000 (according to West London Business) when taking in to account jobs predicated on the presence of the airport. Heathrow suggest a third runway would produce a further 150,000 jobs in West London.
These jobs – around 20% of sub-regional employment – could all move away if Heathrow were to close, which it would be forced to under proposals to locate a hub elsewhere in the UK. This, however, does not seem to persuade the local authorities to support Heathrow in its bid to expand. They are more concerned with the environmental impact, finding it hard to believe Heathrow’s suggestion that a third runway (in their preferred North-West location, pictured left) would actually reduce noise impact – partly because aircraft would be 300m higher over West London during take off or landing – despite the increase in flight numbers it would bring.
The debate continues.