Balance between Environment & Economy must be “front and centre” of expansion debate, Gatwick says

03 February 2015

As public consultation on airport expansion comes to a close today, Gatwick has highlighted the importance of “the crucial balance between the economy and environment” to ensure the benefits of expansion are considered alongside the scale of impacts on local people.

Gatwick has also urged the Airports Commission to ensure that the analysis of noise impacts is conducted in a transparent and even-handed way for all three schemes. The noise analysis published by the Commission to-date makes it difficult for people affected to understand the massive noise impacts around Heathrow, and it includes several distortions which prevent fair comparisons between the three shortlisted schemes.

Another important environmental issue is air quality – one of the key environmental issues which has stopped previous attempts to proceed with a third runway at Heathrow. The Airports Commission has indicated that it has further work to do to establish whether or not Heathrow expansion can meet legal limits – a test which Gatwick expansion can clearly meet and one on which it is crucial for the Commission to be satisfied.

It is essential that the basis of the Commission’s eventual recommendation is balanced, fair and well-evidenced. Gatwick welcomes the fact that the Airports Commission itself has made it clear their decision would form an integrated view across a range of factors - social, environmental and economic – which Gatwick agrees is essential if the right balance between the economy and environment is to be struck.

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said: “At this critical juncture, the Airports Commission’s decision should reflect the sort of country we want Britain to be in the 21st Century.

“We all want the UK to prosper, but we should not pursue economic benefits at any cost to the environment - public consultation has clearly highlighted what difficult but pivotal issues noise and the environment will be in this debate.

“Only expansion at Gatwick puts the environment front and centre of the debate, delivering the new capacity and economic benefits the UK needs at an environmental cost it can afford.

“Expanding Heathrow means 130,000 more planes over London every year, continued breaches of legal limits on air quality, and 320,000 people - a population the size of Coventry - newly affected by noise. In the 21st Century, Heathrow is simply not a credible option and ignores the key issues the public continue to raise.”

Gatwick’s consultation response to the Airports Commission’s includes feedback on key areas of the expansion debate including:

NOISE - “Full weight should be given to the significant difference in the number of people newly exposed to noise by the different schemes… the increase in local and national noise of the Heathrow schemes has been significantly understated”

  • The Commission’s analysis indicates that 320,000 people would be newly exposed to significant noise by Heathrow expansion compared to 18,000 people for Gatwick
  • Gatwick highlights this as a crucial aspect and that “full weight should be given to the significant difference in the number of people newly exposed to noise by each scheme”
  • Gatwick believes the Airports Commission’s analysis “understates significantly the increase in local and national noise impacts of the Heathrow schemes” and that a more consistent approach is needed if the Commission’s assessment is to be robust
  • Gatwick also highlights the importance of air quality, stating that Gatwick does not breach air quality limits, whereas at Heathrow “such breaches are daily occurrences”

ENVIRONMENT & ECONOMY - “Striking the right balance between Economy and Environment is crucial”

  • Gatwick’s response notes that “it is clear any additional capacity will have to meet demanding environmental standards in respect of noise and air quality”
  • Reflecting this, Gatwick’s submission says it is crucial for the Airports Commission to “strike the right balance between Economy and Environment” and that “only a second runway at Gatwick is clearly able to achieve this”

DELIVERABILITY - “Gatwick is deliverable – Heathrow faces significant risks, some of which could prove insurmountable”

  • Gatwick’s submission highlights the significant planning and construction risks to Heathrow’s plans compared to the “much less challenging” Gatwick scheme
  • The planning phase of Heathrow’s plans is also “likely to take significantly longer… to resolve a range of environmental issues such as noise, air quality, landfill, and how to introduce a local congestion charge”
  • Heathrow “must manage a much higher degree of construction risk” including the diversion of the M25, the relocation of a Waste to Energy plant, and the clean-up of an estimated 9 million metres3 of landfill believed to include hazardous material
  • By contrast, “the fact that a Gatwick second runway can be built on a safeguarded site means it is the only scheme that can be delivered by 2025, a point recognised in the Commission’s assessment”

ALTERNATIVES TO HEATHROW - “All previous attempts to add a Heathrow third runway have failed”

  • Gatwick’s response highlights the Public Inquiry from 2000 where the Inspector Roy Vandermeer QC said a third runway at Heathrow would have “such severe and widespread impacts on the environment as to be totally unacceptable”
  • Gatwick also flags up that other key inquiries and Government White Papers in 1981, 1985, 1993, 2003 and 2006 “reached the same conclusion and looked for viable alternatives to an unacceptable and undeliverable third runway at Heathrow”
  • Based on this, Gatwick’s submission calls on the Airports Commission to carefully consider past failures to expand Heathrow and that “the Commission now has the opportunity to propose an alternative at Gatwick which is not just viable but better and can actually be delivered”

ECONOMY – “Gatwick provides greater value for money than expanding Heathrow”

  • Gatwick agrees with the Commission’s view that its PwC economic analysis should be “interpreted with caution” – indeed, having identified a number of flaws in the PwC analysis, Gatwick is of the view that it should not be relied upon
  • Gatwick states that “the Commission should follow the DfT’s guidelines and present costs as well as economic benefits – when this is done, it is clear Gatwick expansion delivers much better net benefits and better value for money than Heathrow”

COSTS – “Costs and Commercial Viability favour Gatwick – Heathrow’s proposals omit £6bn of costs along with a further £5.7bn of surface access costs”

  • Gatwick notes that its second runway plans are “rightly recognised by the Commission as the lowest cost and lowest risk”
  • This reflects that “the Gatwick scheme is inherently a much lower risk project on non-operational land, with much simpler political, planning and construction challenges”
  • Gatwick also notes that “the Heathrow proposals omit some very substantial costs (expansion of Terminal 2, further works on the Eastern Campus, and a southern road tunnel) which would add a further £6 billion to the cost of the Heathrow scheme”
  • In addition “the Commission has itself identified a further £5.7bn of surface access costs at Heathrow”

COMPETITION AND CONNECTIVITY – “Putting two world-class airports at the heart of the London system would enhance the position of London as a truly global city”

  • The Commission have stated that Gatwick “would enhance competition in the London airport system” -Gatwick reiterates this point, saying that “two world-class airports would enhance the position of London as a truly global city”
  • Gatwick also notes that “according to the Commission’s analysis, a second runway at Gatwick provides at least the same connectivity in the UK as expansion of Heathrow but with much greater resilience and much lower environmental impacts”
  • However, Gatwick states that the huge benefits of competition “should be fully taken into account” and that the Commission “does not yet fully recognise the consumer benefits that competition can deliver through a greater choice of routes, lower fares and improved service”
  • Independent analysis “suggests that the quantified direct benefits of competition are around £10-14 billion”

TRAFFIC & CAPACITY – “the traffic modelling used by the Commission is seriously flawed and under-forecasts Gatwick’s future passenger growth”

  • Gatwick says that the traffic modelling used by the Airports Commission is “seriously flawed” and that“independent advice to support these points” has been provided to the Commission
  • The flawed traffic modelling has understated traffic growth at Gatwick, and overstated traffic at Heathrow, thus distorting the wider assessments of economic benefits
  • Gatwick highlights that capacity claims by Heathrow need to be corrected and that “work by independent experts suggests the incremental capacity generated by a Heathrow third runway is likely to be some 60% of that generated by a Gatwick second runway”
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