Campaigners in favour and against 2nd runway at Gatwick Airport fear impact of 6-month decision delay

A DECISION on whether Gatwick or Heathrow will get a new runway is expected to be delayed for six months, leaving campaigners opposing a second runway at the former location "worried".

The Government's Economic and Domestic Cabinet sub-committee, chaired by David Cameron, is meeting tomorrow (Thursday) and widespread reports have suggested members will call for more time to make a decision.

Influential Conservative MPs opposing a third runway at Heathrow and the environmental impact it could have are both believed to be factors in why the final decision is set to be put back. Both those strongly in favour of and those against expansion at Gatwick agree any further wait will be "woeful".

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of Gatwick Diamond Business, which represents companies based around the airport, believes the delay could be in Gatwick's favour.

He said: "It will be woeful if there is further procrastinating and putting off a decision on this issue. The recommendation for Heathrow was made with stringent conditions on noise and air pollution, including a ban on night flights.

"I still maintain Heathrow is not deliverable because of the environmental conditions that have been set. Any further review is sure to confirm this. What else are they going to find?

"Gatwick is in the strongest position. We will continue pressing for the right decision to be made because a second runway at Gatwick can be operational within the 2025 timeframe."

Mr Taylor believes a delay would be purely for political reasons and added: "David Cameron and the Conservative government will want to dictate how they fit this decision around the London mayoral election in May [Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith is against expanding Heathrow and has threatened to resign as an MP over the issue].

"While all this is going on all we want is a decision to be made."

Earlier this week Downing Street said a "clear direction" on airport expansion would be given before the end of year.

This went back on what the Prime Minister said in July when the Airports Commission's recommendation – for Heathrow to get a third runway – was published.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron said at the time: "The guarantee I can give ... is that a decision will be made by the end of the year."

Gatwick's bid to build a second runway was dealt a major blow by the Airports Commission's final report which stated Heathrow was the "clear and unanimous" choice for airport expansion.

Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies did not rule out a new runway at Gatwick, though, calling the prospect "feasible".

The commission's report, which spent two-and-a-half years researching the need for and feasibility of airport expansion, cost £13.4 million according to figures released after a Freedom of Information request.

Derek Meakings, from the Crawley-based One's Enough campaign group against Gatwick expansion, said another wait is "worrying" for those who don't want a second runway.

Mr Meakings, from St Catherine's Road, Pound Hill, said: "While a second runway at Gatwick remains an option it is concerning for us.

"It is still on the table and that is worrying.

"We cannot rest easy.

"If you read between the lines it seems as though there has been political infighting over the decision to back Heathrow or not and that could be a factor in the delay.

"If this causes a six-month delay you can be sure (CEO) Stewart Wingate and the team at Gatwick will ramp up the level of lobbying again."

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said no comment will be made until the sub-committee makes an announcement later this week.

Sourc: Crawley News