Britain's Gatwick airport is pressing ahead with plans to turn its emergency runway into a second working runway to help it handle an expected bounce in air travel.
It argues the runway will be needed within 10 years with “demand that’s outstripping the supply of slots”.
The airport in Sussex, south-east England, has long sought a second runway.
Gatwick says converting the emergency northern runway into a routine use second runway would create 18,400 jobs by 2038, enlarge capacity to a potential 75.5 million passengers a year and bring a £1.5 billion boost to the regional economy.
“We are confident that Gatwick will not only fully recover to previous passenger levels, but has the potential to continue to grow back into one of Europe’s premier airports,” airport chief executive Stewart Wingate said.
“Our plans to bring our existing northern runway into routine use will not only help to secure that growth but will also ensure many thousands of additional jobs and a vital boost to the economy for our local region. ”
Previous plans to build a second runway have been stymied by determined local campaigners and the Airports Commission, which favoured a runway expansion at Heathrow, in west London, rather than Gatwick.
In 2019, Gatwick, the UK’s second biggest airport, was the busiest single runway airport in the world but growth was limited, and then the pandemic brought it to a virtual standstill.
Gatwick announced on Wednesday that a public consultation will begin on September 9. It hopes to submit final plans in late 2022.
The plan allows Gatwick to use the northern runway for departing aircraft by repositioning its centre line further north by 12 metres.
That would enable dual runway operations with the airport’s main runway while meeting all international safety standards, Gatwick said.
“We would like to hear views from local people and interested groups on the proposed Northern Runway Project as part of our comprehensive public consultation process and encourage everyone to take time to review our plans,” Mr Wingate said.
“Aside from the economic benefits our plans will have, we remain committed to our sustainability goals, and our Northern Runway plans are designed to be a low-impact way of unlocking new capacity from our existing infrastructure, much of which is already in place.”
Activists at – an umbrella aviation, community and environment group - accused Gatwick of being disingenuous in its efforts to develop the emergency runway.
Eurocontrol data shows Gatwick now only has 158 daily flights, which is down by 83 per cent on 2019, when there were up 950 take-offs a day.