A new runway at Gatwick more than 3,000m in length is among the options that have been short-listed by the Airports Commission for expanding UK airport capacity.
The three short-listed options include adding a third runway at Heathrow and lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow.
A new airport in the Isle of Grain in north Kent will also be considered by the commission, led by businessman Sir Howard Davies.
The chairman of Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, Brendon Sewill, said the short-listing of Gatwick is ‘no surprise’ and ‘now the battle is for real’.
He said: “The battle lines are drawn. Now the spotlight is on Gatwick the next step will be to examine the runway plans in detail, and it will be found that Gatwick is an unsuitable site.
“It is too small, it can never be a four-runway hub, and the ‘constellation’ concept - London with three airports each with two runways - is coming unstuck. Research shows that no other city in the world has two competing hubs.”
The commission has not short-listed proposals for expanding Stansted or Birmingham.
Mr Sewill said the group is ‘delighted that our friends at Stansted have had the threat to their homes and environment lifted’.
“Over the past ten years they have fought a good fight and won a worthy victory. Now we at Gatwick must do the same. We have done it before in 1970, 1993, and 2003 and we will do it again.”
Georgia Wrighton, director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Sussex) said: “A second runway at Gatwick, together with sprawling development and urbanisation anticipated on a massive scale, would concrete over cherished open countryside.
“A heady cocktail of increased flights, HGVs and cars would erode the tranquillity of rural communities, and the health and quality of life of people living under its shadow.
“The national obsession with expansion will land a disaster on the countryside whilst making runaway climate change unstoppable. Instead of airport expansion we need genuine support for and promotion of alternatives.”
A final report is due by summer 2015.
Sir Howard was asked in 2012 to investigate the options for expanding the UK’s aviation capacity and try to come up with a plan.
He said the Commission’s analysis showed one net additional runway was needed by 2030.
The following proposals have been short-listed: A new runway at Gatwick Airport more than 3,000m in length; A new 3,500m runway at Heathrow Airport constructed to the north-west of the existing airport and; An extension of Heathrow’s existing northern runway to the west to at least 6,000m, enabling it to be used for both take-offs and landings.
A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said it is ‘pleased that the Commission has included Gatwick Airport on its short-list of airports’.
“The county council voted to support in principle the expansion of Gatwick Airport on economic grounds.
“The council supports a vibrant, growing economy and the Government’s drive for growth for the future economic prosperity of the country.
“On balance there are compelling economic arguments for a second runway because of the benefits to everyone in West Sussex.
“There is a clear need for long-term, sustainable business growth in order to protect the local economy, and create new jobs.”
The spokesperson added: “The county council has always been crystal clear that a decision on whether there should be a second runway at Gatwick would be taken after balancing the economic benefits against the needs of the environment.”