Gatwick Airport second runway going ahead regardless of Heathrow outcome

Gatwick Airport says that it will be going ahead with its second runway plan regardless of Heathrow Airport’s outcome. In other words, if the decision goes Heathrow’s way, Gatwick says it will build the second runway anyway.

Gatwick Airport, which is in West Sussex – 29.5 miles (47.5 km) south of Central London – believes Heathrow will probably fail in building a third runway, even if the decision goes its way.

There have been doubts regarding the runaway costs of improving infrastructure in the area as well as the environmental impact of boosting capacity at Heathrow, the UK’s and Europe’s busiest airport. In 2015, Heathrow handled a record 75 million passengers.

Gatwick Airport second runway going ahead regardlessEven if the Government decision goes Heathrow’s way, Gatwick Airport says it is still going ahead with its second runway plan. (Image:

Heathrow or Gatwick Airport – decision soon

Prime Minister Theresa May said in her Tory Party conference keynote address in Birmingham that the Government would soon announce its decision regarding airport expansion.

In July 2015, the Davies Commission recommended that a third runway should be added to Heathrow Airport. Other options in the shortlist include building a second runway at Gatwick or extending Heathrow’s existing northern runway.

According to a press release issued on Thursday, Gatwick Airport says that comprehensive data has shown that the air quality around Heathrow would make construction unlawful.

Several areas around Heathrow already breach air quality limits, even without a third runway. Gatwick insists that building a third runway at Heathrow would be illegal.

Gatwick says its Heathrow environmental data is much more comprehensive than what the monitoring stations run by local councils can manage – they only provide a snapshot of air quality across a limited number of areas.

third-runway-heathrow-airportMost bets are on Heathrow getting the go-ahead for the third runway. However, the Government may be put off by the environmental and infrastructure challenges and opt for Gatwick Airport. (Image: adapted from

Pollution around Heathrow high

This is how the five worst performing sites (micrograms per cubic metre) around Heathrow averaged over a 3-month period:

– West Road, Osterley: 50.5. This was 126% of the legal limit.

– Hatch Lane, Harmondsworth: 48.8. This was 122% of the legal limit.

– St Peter’s Way, Harmondsworth: 64.9. This was 162% of the legal limit.

– Pinglestone Close, Harlington: 60.4. This was 151% of the legal limit.

– Jolly Waggoners Roundabout, Cranford: 53.7. This was 134% of the legal limit

Gatwick Airport says it is highly unlikely that Heathrow’s air quality will improve in time to accommodate a considerable amount of pollution that construction traffic will bring to the area in five years’ time – construction is planned to start in 2021.

In the press release, Gatwick wrote:

“The impact of construction related traffic alone is likely to ensure that air quality around Heathrow is over legal limits – making expansion there unlawful.”

“Construction related traffic includes 223000 delayed M25 journeys each day for up to seven years while the motorway is put into four tunnels. The Airports Commission took no account of construction traffic on local air quality levels.”

According to Gatwick Airport, it has never breached air quality limits. It adds that its location means that if expanded, it would easily remain within legal limits.

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate, said:

“Air quality around Heathrow continues to soar way above legal limits today and it is inconceivable that it could improve fast enough to make expansion legal anytime soon.”

“Gatwick has never breached legal air quality limits. We would have a new runway operational by 2025 without any of the environmental, construction and financial delays that Heathrow will inevitably face. It’s a no-brainer.”

A Gatwick spokesman told the Press Association:

“Gatwick would also be standing ready to deliver the new runway as should Heathrow get the green light it is likely to fail as it has several times before.”

“A decision on next steps will be taken after the Government announcement on new runway capacity. While Gatwick does not rule out launching legal action, other groups have already said they would if Heathrow expansion is green-lighted.”

10 busiest airport in UKOf the five busiest airports in the UK, four are in or around London (exception: Manchester). Air passenger traffic is expected to expand rapidly over the next 20 years. (Data Source: UK 2015 Wikipedia)

According to local newspapers, the authorities in areas near Heathrow are likely to challenge an expansion decision in court.

Gatwick says it will try to maximise the use of its current runway.

“Gatwick would continue to improve efficiency until it reaches 100% capacity. One area it would be looking to grow would be its long-haul route network. Having put on 20 new long-haul routes in 2015 alone, Gatwick is expecting to grow the total long-haul routes it offers above the 51-strong network it currently has, ” the spokesman said.

Video – New runway at Gatwick Airport

This Gatwick Airport video animation outlines the phased construction for a new runway and terminal.