‘Serious concerns’ about proposals to bring Gatwick Airport’s standby runway into full-time use have been raised by West Sussex council leaders.
Use of the standby runway was one of three options listed in Gatwick’s expansion masterplan, alongside more intense use of the existing main runway and safeguarding land south of the airport for a possible new runway in the future.
Nine council leaders covering authorities in West Sussex and Surrey have written to Gatwick expressing ‘serious concerns about the approach and timescales being proposed’ for the airport’s plans to bring the standby runway into use.
Ray Dawe, leader of Horsham District Council, Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council, and West Sussex County Council’s Louise Goldsmith were three of the signatories.
The letter added: “There appears to be very little recognition by your team of the critical role local authorities perform as representatives of the local community and minimal regard for the importance of effective and meaningful dialogue between GAL [Gatwick Airport Limited] and our authorities.
“As you deliberate about whether to progress expansion plans, we urge GAL to genuinely engage with us to increase trust and understanding so we can ensure any proposals benefit our communities.”
In response Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer of Gatwick, said: “We believe that this project represents a very significant and strategically important opportunity for the south-east region and is vital for its ability to compete economically. We therefore think that this project should be delivered expediently.
“I should stress at the outset that we completely agree with your statement that there is much to be gained by working constructively together and that we are equally keen to do so.
“I would like to reassure you that all our activities to date have been designed with this in mind, and with the intention of fostering effective communication between us on all matters to do with growth at the airport.”
To make any changes, Gatwick will have to submit a planning application to the planning inspectorate.
A spokesman for Gatwick said: “Gatwick consulted on its 2018 draft masterplan late last year, which set out potential scenarios for the airport’s ongoing development and sustainable growth.
“We are currently analysing the responses to the 12-week public consultation and extensive engagement with local authorities and communities.
“We plan to publish a report on the consultation and the final masterplan in the near future.
“If we were to take forward the proposals to bring the standby runway into routine use, we would follow a statutory planning process including a formal public consultation.
“Gatwick regularly engages with our local councils and communities through many channels and would continue to do so constructively as part of any future developments.”