Thousands of new jobs could be created at Gatwick as airport bosses explore ambitious expansion plans.
The airport is aiming to create 1,200 new jobs over the next ten years but said thousands more could be created over the next 30 years if permission for a second runway is granted.
Officials have begun preparatory work on the possibility of building a second runway that could see passenger numbers double to 80 million a year.
The legal process and construction period means that any proposed second runway would take at least 15 years and cost up to £5 billion.
But as part of Gatwick’s short-term expansion plans, bosses are aiming to add six million more passengers by 2021/22 which would create 1,200 airport jobs.
Campaigners say plans for a second runway would be a broken promise after bosses had previously said they were not interested in an additional runway.
However, in a written submission to the Commons Transport Select Committee, bosses admitted that work has begun on “evaluating options” for a new runway.
An airport spokeswoman said several options were being explored in terms of a new runway with varying degrees of increased passenger numbers.
A 1979 legal agreement means that no new runway can be built before 2019 and any building project could take up to five years to complete.
Doubling capacity to 80 million would see Gatwick challenging Heathrow as the country’s busiest airport.
In the shorter-term, the airport told the select committee it can still expand with one runway by improving the efficiency of its operations and by encouraging the use of larger aircraft.
The site’s new management has increased the number of flights from 50 to 53 an hour.
Officials hope to increase this to 55 within two to three years, possibly including more early morning, midday or late evening trips.
Gatwick officials say a second runway would be a “huge economic driver” for the region, creating thousands of new jobs.
Of the 21,000 current Gatwick employees, approximately 7,500 live in Crawley and nearly 1,500 in both Horsham and Brighton and Hove.
Yesterday (December 10), the airport announced it had seen a 4.2% increase in passengers in November compared to a year ago, with 2.22 million people flying in or out in the month.
An airport spokeswoman said: “Our work will look into a range of issues including environmental, rail and road access, economic and other impacts and requirements.
“Noise impacts on local communities and the effect on air quality will be a key.
“This work will be submitted to the Airports Commission which was set up in September by the Government to tackle the future of airport capacity.”
Brendon Sewill, the chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, said: “Local councillors who have tended to think that a new runway would just mean some more jobs without much harm will now have their eyes opened. “To more than double the size of Gatwick would more than double the environmental damage.”
Talking point: Should Gatwick get a second runway?
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- 75-year-old woman mugged in her own home
- December is the worst month for road deaths in Sussex this year with scores of crashes and casualties this week
- ‘Death trap’ cycle lane claims fourth victim
- Interim worker cost double the money of sacked housing chief
- More Brighton and Hove councillors 'will defect to Ukip'