DAVID Cameron is warming to the idea of a second runway at Gatwick, according to sources close to the Prime Minister.

He could be close to backing the idea amid fears expansion at Heathrow would cause excessive pollution and noise in Greater London.

The news comes as a fresh consultation on how expansion at both airports could affect air quality is due to close noon on Friday. 

It was ordered by Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, and the responses will form a report to be published in June or July which will recommend which site should be expanded to increase airport capacity in the south east.

While the government is not bound by the report, Mr Cameron is beginning to favour Gatwick in a bid to demonstrate his environment credentials as he begins his second term as Prime Minister, according to sources.

Another source claimed the decision may be political to avoid a rift within his cabinet among Tories dead-against Heathrow expansion.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and home secretary Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead in Berkshire, both have constituencies affected by the Heathrow flight path.

Mr Johnson has vowed to fight any expansion in West London, saying it would blight the lives of millions of people living in the west of the capital – though he also claimed Gatwick would not answer capacity needs.

Ms May, foreign secretary Philip Hammond, the MP for Runnymede and Weybridge in Surrey, and international development secretary Justine Greening, the MP for Putney in south west London, are also on record opposing Heathrow.

Mr Johnson and Ms May are potential successors as leaders of the Conservative Party and if either became prime minister they could reverse the decision, the source claimed.

But the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) rejected the reports, arguing Mr Cameron’s position was not attributed, with 11 Conservative MPs in constituencies around Gatwick all pledging to fight a second runway.

Ministers have refused to comment publicly before the final report is published.

Heathrow insists the airport will meet air pollution limits if it expands, but Gatwick said a second runway in West Sussex would affect few homes and cost less.

Airportwatch, a group of organisations which oppose unsustainable airport expansion, said: “The issue of air quality, in reality, prevents either runway being built – at Heathrow air quality is already too poor. At Gatwick, it would be illegal to worsen tolerable air quality for thousands of people.”

The statement questioned if avoiding a party split would be “sufficient justification” for “devastating damage to a huge area of Sussex and Surrey”.

Respond to the consultation by emailing air.quality@airports.gsi.gov.uk or click here for more information


Decision will have big impact

LOCKED in rivalry, Gatwick and Heathrow airports are both desperate to expand.

In December 2013 the Airports Commission shortlisted three proposals – a new runway at Gatwick more than 3,000m in length, a new 3,500m runway at Heathrow constructed to the north-west of the existing airport, or an extension of Heathrow's existing northern runway to the west to at least 6,000m, so it can be used for take-offs and landings.

The decision is expected to have a huge impact not just on the chosen airport – but the many thousands of people living nearby.

A fierce debate has raged ever since with each airport hoping to making their case for the green light.

Gatwick’s campaign – entitled London Gatwick Obviously, logo pictured above – promises a second runway would “connect Britain to the future, faster”.

Heathrow’s pledge, called Taking Britain Further, said the decision would create jobs, economic growth and the country’s position on the “global stage”.

Despite being the much smaller airport, privately owned Gatwick has had a heavyweight publicity campaign, which has promised an end to passenger queues, fast-track 30-minute check-in and boarding, and quicker connections between flights.

Yet the slick PR came as West Sussex county councillors voted to oppose the plans, despite the majority of members supported the plans in principle in 2013.

Thirty-seven councillors voted against expansion with 26 in favour and four abstaining.

Councillor Sue Mullins, who represents Gossops Green and Ifield East, said expansion would impact the mental and physical health of those underneath flight paths.

But Councillor Morwen Millson, for Horsham Riverside, warned: “Without the expansion jobs would go at the airport. More technology means less people will be needed. We need to recognise that.”

East Sussex County Council backed the plans, with 27 voting in favour of the motion and 19 voting against. The council made clear it did not support a “narrow, concentrated arrival flight path” and called on the airport to use a number of routes, should the plans go ahead.

In another twist, campaigners celebrated when the Airports Commission announced it would take a fresh look at how expansion could affect air quality and pollution levels in Sussex and Greater London.

Objectors claimed it was a sign of doubt over whether Gatwick was the right site to choose.

And this month West Sussex county councillors called for a congestion charge if the plan went ahead to ensure congestion-free roads and easily accessible public transport.

But Gatwick argues congestion charge was unnecessary because air quality levels would remain within legal limits in the area close to the airport.

Meanwhile, the appointment of green enthusiast Camilla Cavendish as head of the Downing Street policy unit has given hope to Heathrow expansion objectors, who say the airport’s plans would breach EU air quality regulations.

An unexpected implication of expansion could lie in Crawley’s ethnically diverse population.

According to the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, Dr Paul Stillman said the 10% of patients in the town of Asian origin already suffered from unusually high incidence of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The campaign group also cited claims polluted air could lead to the early onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia and the proposed destruction of 70 acres of woodland as factors against the expansion.




JEREMY Taylor said objectors to a second runway at Gatwick were “narrow minded” in their approach and were “selective” in what they read about the plans for expansion.

He said: “People are blinkered in their opposition to Gatwick and don’t seem to be able to see what they are saying. The first reason for supporting it is because the country needs a runway and this needs to be in the south east for economic prosperity for the region and the country.

“It will create more jobs than just airport jobs. I’m concerned by not developing Gatwick we will still have the same amount of passengers to use it and no infrastructure. This could lead to more planes stacking and holding over Sussex and a harsher environmental impact than normal.”

He said Heathrow was “woefully inadequate” and said people who supported Heathrow were “misguided,” claiming expansion plans would cost less at Gatwick.

He said: “Heathrow does not have a direct train line – it is at the end of a tube line and would have to be a linked to a mainline. Gatwick already has direct links to a number of stations and there is funding for new 24-hour bus routes.”

He claimed the latest Airports Commission consultation could be seen as a measure to ensure its final decision cannot be challenged on the ground it had not considered air quality.

• Jeremy Taylor is chief executive of partnership Gatwick Diamond Business, in Crawley



THE Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, a group of 100 councils, environmental organisations and individuals, is fighting against the second runway.

It claims the expansion could breach EU pollution law and said a judgement by the Supreme Court on May 1 said the UK Government must enforce the EU ruling on air quality which said: “Air quality status should be maintained where it is already good, or improved.”

Campaign chairman Brendon Sewill said: “The show-stopper for Gatwick is having only one railway line. This will lead to more pollution and we cannot get away from that.

“There is no infrastructure. We have a completely different lifestyle to London. There are no free buses or good bus services and there is no funding for these. The taxpayer will have to pay for any new infrastructure.

“Dumping an airport in West Sussex without infrastructure will be repeating the disaster when Heathrow was built. Big business and airlines don’t support this idea and MPs around Gatwick are opposed to the idea.The Airports Commission is seriously underestimating future pollution levels.

“First they are looking at 2030 when the new runway would only be half full, and second, their estimates of future road traffic are only about half of what would be created by an airport larger than Heathrow today.

“There will be around 100,000 extra cars per day in the Gatwick area plus a ten-fold increase in freight and commercial vehicles – all adding to pollution.”

• Brendon Sewill is chairman of The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign