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13 August 2019

836: Gatwick can have a second runway

Today’s entry reports on Gatwick expansion.

On 13 August 1979, Gatwick entered into an agreement with West Sussex County Council that it would not build a second runway for forty years, and that agreement expires today, 13 August 2019. The agreement can be found here.

The agreement also prevented the emergency runway from being used while the main runway was operational – that also expires today.

Gatwick is therefore now free from those restrictions, but if it made an application for a new runway would it be permitted?

If the increase in passenger capacity caused by a new runway were less than (or capped at less than) 10 million per annum (mppa) then the project would not be a nationally significant infrastructure project and would be made to the local authority, Crawley Borough Council. Similarly, a proposal to expand Stansted (albeit not through a new runway) by around 8mppa was made to, and recently ‘refused by‘ (actually sent back to the planning committee for redetermination) Uttlesford District Council.

If the increase were 10mppa or more then it would be the subject of a Development Consent Order application to the Secretary of State for Transport. Either way, the government has been pretty clear that the only new runway it will contemplate in the south-east of England is the Heathrow North West Runway.

What about the emergency runway? That is a different story because the Airports National Policy Statement  says that airports other than Heathrow can make best use of their existing runways (see paragraph 1.39).

Thus Gatwick could well argue that using its emergency runway as a normal runway is making best use of it, and indeed that is what it is considering. It has recently consulted on and published a final masterplan. This says in the foreword:

‘we will undertake further detailed design and development work to bring our existing standby runway into routine use and thereafter to seek consent via the planning process through what is known as a Development Consent Order (DCO)’.

Meanwhile, Heathrow is undergoing statutory consultation on its proposals for another month with a view to putting its application, and the Airports National Policy Statement legal challenges will be heard by the Court of Appeal starting on 21 October. Will Gatwick beat them to it?

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