Campaigners opposed to the building of a second runway have accused Gatwick Airport of desperation following the publication of a new opinion poll.
The poll, published by YouGov on Thursday (March 12) asked just over 1,000 people in each of the Kent, West Sussex and Gatwick areas which airport they would like to see expanded. In all three areas, the majority opted for Gatwick.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at Gatwick, said the results showed “the majority of residents in all seven districts of West Sussex, both young and old, think Gatwick should be expanded”.
He added: “We are also seeing increasing public, business and political support throughout the UK as momentum gathers behind Gatwick’s credible and compelling case for expansion.”
When asked what made the YouGov poll any different from the many which had come before, Mr Wingate said: “What we’ve been doing over a series of months is going back again and again and again and we’ve got pretty consistent polling results.”
The UK-wide support did not extend to the majority of councils in the Gatwick area with 12 authorities – including Crawley and West Sussex – coming out against expansion.
“The majority of residents in all seven districts of West Sussex, both young and old, think Gatwick should be expanded”Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at Gatwick
Mr Wingate played down the importance of so much political opposition and said: “If you look at the local councils, even the votes they have had have been quite balanced.
“East Sussex supported us and, when you move up into the London boroughs you see increasing support.
“This is always going to be a contentious issue and is one of the reasons we’ve done polling off our own backs.”
The voting in the Crawley area was decisively opposed to expansion. In January, Crawley Borough Council opposed it by 25 votes to 11, West Sussex County Council by 37 to 26 and Horsham District Council by 23 to 1.
Sally Pavey chair of CAGNE, Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, said such opposition had left Gatwick “desperately endeavouring” to convince Sir Howard Davies and the Airports Commission the Gatwick proposal had support.
She added: “This is another illustration of how desperate Gatwick is becoming as officials see through the holes in Gatwick’s proposals.”
Mr Wingate, however, felt the tide had turned over the past few years, with Gatwick taking pole position over Heathrow.
He said: “I think if you look at where we were nearly two-and-a-half years ago when the Airports Commission was set up, it seemed to be the front runners were Heathrow. We’re now finding ourselves in a place where we’re seen as the only deliverable solution.”
Sir Howard Davies is due to give his recommendation to Parliament in July. Even if May’s General Election sees a shift in power, Mr Wingate said he did not think expansion plans anywhere in the UK would be scrapped, as has happened before.
He added: “There’s an increasing consensus that something needs to be done.”