Proposals for a second runway for Gatwick are expected to be submitted on Friday - as the south’s key airports vie for approval to expand.
At the same time, Heathrow Airport is expected to put forward plans for a third runway, while Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has swung behind proposals for a new four-runway airport on the Isle of Grain in Kent.
Gatwick Airport Limited will submit an outline proposal to the Davies Commission on airport capacity on Friday July 19, which will be made public on Tuesday July 23.
If they are shortlisted by the Airports Commission at the end of the year and they expect to be, they will put together an ‘initial proposal’ next year with a more in depth report into all the costs and benefits.
Gatwick has suggested that the best option moving forward is three two-runway airports at Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “The evidence we have been gathering clearly shows that our country’s aviation capacity issue will be best served by three competitive London airports - Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted – with Gatwick first in line to get the next new runway, making extra capacity more easily deliverable.”
Last week research commissioned by West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council of more than 1,000 residents and 621 business in the county was presented to residents’ groups, businesses and local authorities at Crawley Civil Hall.
The special meeting was independently chaired by the Editor in Chief of this newspaper Gary Shipton with panellists county council leader Louise Goldsmith and Crawley Borough Council deputy leader Claire Denman.
The County Times and its sister newspapers the Crawley Observer and Mid Sussex Times have been asked by the local authorities to be central to facilitating a public debate - which will prove highly influential in the final outcome.
According to the results, presented by QA Research, the preferred choice for local residents was a second runway at Gatwick compared to other options for increasing air travel capacity in the South East.
Speaking after the meeting Kyran Hanks, strategy director at Gatwick Airport, said: “Talking to businesses and residents, having expected them to be negative is that we’ve been surprised by how open and positive people are, so I’m not surprised quite how positive the results are.
“They’re not in conflict with what we’re hearing when we go around.
“All our proposals will be parallel runways because airports work better when the runways are parallel.”
To read the full survey results go to bit.ly/18Sb88u
Meanwhile, a business leader has warned that there would be “widespread economic devastation” if Gatwick was not chosen to house a second runway.
The comment was made by Jeremy Taylor, CEO of Gatwick Diamond Business, following the group’s AGM – and a county wide independent survey published last week indicated that the majority of businesses supported expansion at the airport.
Speaking at the meeting, Rosemary French, executive director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, said: “This is the start of a debate that could last two years and I commend West Sussex County Council for starting this debate and enabling the stake holders to take an early view and debate that. The Gatwick Diamond Initiative is absolutely supporting a second runway. Much of this [survey] mirrors the research we have done.”
Mr Taylor said a second runway would bring jobs and long-term security to the town. He added: “A second runway to the south of the existing runway would be ideal.
“If the next runway goes elsewhere then there will be an impact on local jobs.”
But Robert Vygus, representing Langley Green Neighbourhood Forum warned: “One of the things that is starting to strike me, Crawley is becoming a pressure cooker.
“How do we house people? Our green spaces are being taken up. What degree will they be taken up?”
And, according to the research, residents of the Horsham district were more likely to mention a disadvantage to having an airport nearby, with chief concerns transport and more congestion on the roads.
The timing of a survey on business and residents’ opinions of a second runway at Gatwick was compared to ‘finding snakes in the bath’ after being offered an exotic holiday.
Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), said: “It’s extraordinary doing a survey before Gatwick has announced its plans.
“Again it strikes me as amazing, it’s like asking people if they would like an exotic holiday before they tell them there are snakes in the bath or it might be expensive.”
The final decision on a second Gatwick runway will not be taken locally but by central Government.
However, the position that West Sussex County Council takes is thought to be pivotal. Mrs Goldsmith is widely expected to make a statement on Friday outlining her views. To date she has remained tight-lipped on the subject as she considered all available evidence.
In the past, the county council has strongly resisted a second-runway - barring it for 40 years in 1979 under a legal agreement which will expire in 2019.
As soon as the county council makes clear its position - expected to be Friday lunch time - it will be fully reported at www.wscountytimes.co.uk