Londoners Back Gatwick

Poll reports 41% for Gatwick whilst 24% voted for Heathrow

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A new poll released this week suggests Londoners back expansion at Gatwick. The YouGov poll found that Londoners would prefer Gatwick rather than Heathrow to get an extra runway by 44 per cent to 33. Gatwick was seen as cheaper and less harmful in terms of noise and pollution.

The poll of 1,072 Londoners found that 41 per cent backed Gatwick as the best choice for issues such as noise and air pollution, compared with 24 per cent for Heathrow. Some 38 per cent thought Gatwick would cost less, against 20 for Heathrow.

The poll coincided with the publication of a letter signed by Wandsworth council leader Ravi Govindia, Kingston’s Kevin Davis, Southwark’s Peter John and Croydon’s Tony Newman which urged: “Why waste another decade on a failed Heathrow scheme when there’s an alternative on the table?”
The Government is expected to make an announcement in December whether it favours a second runway At Gatwick or a new runway at Heathrow.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the campaign group which opposes expansion at Heathrow, said, “This poll re-enforces the message that a 3rd runway at Heathrow is simply not popular with people in London. And it sends a clear signal to the Government that it will face formidable opposition if it gives the go-ahead to a new runway.”

The letter reads:
Very soon a decision will be made on Heathrow expansion and for many of us this feels like groundhog day. But this time around there is a key difference and today’s Government is in a much better position than its predecessors. That’s because they have a credible alternative.

The rapid growth of Gatwick since its release from the BAA monopoly provides another viable option for improving London’s connectivity. The airport will soon outgrow its single runway and a second would unlock its full potential as a world class aviation hub.

Expanding Heathrow would also bring new connectivity and growth, but this project is not going to get off the ground. Many attempts have come and gone over the last 20 years. Some schemes have been in the form of a new runway and some in the form of mixed mode operations which would see planes landing on both runways all day long. All of these attempts have failed and always for the same reasons. Heathrow is hemmed in by densely populated areas so the noise, air pollution and traffic congestion impacts are as high as they possibly can be. There’s also the matter of having to bulldoze thousands of homes. Some of these issues, like air pollution and traffic gridlock, are much worse now than ever before. 

So why waste another decade on a failed Heathrow scheme when there’s an alternative on the table? Expanding Gatwick would deliver an equivalent economic boost to enlarging Heathrow, but with only a fraction of the environmental impacts. Gatwick has never broken legal air quality limits and would remain within them even with a second runway. We are not saying expanding this airport is pain free, it most certainly is not. 18,000 people would be newly affected by aircraft noise and that is a heavy price to pay for the enhanced connectivity our Government wants. But Heathrow’s third runway would see 320,000 residents affected by aircraft noise who have never been overflown before. That’s over 17 times as many people.

The Government will also be weighing up the relative cost to the taxpayer. Gatwick expansion would cost the Treasury nothing, leaving public funds for other vital growth projects like CrossRail 2. Heathrow, on the other hand, will need a £20bn taxpayer subsidy as the enormous mitigation costs are too high for the owners to bare.

We believe the choice is simple. Gatwick expansion is achievable and will give the Government the additional capacity and growth it so clearly wants. Heathrow expansion will fail and deliver nothing but more court battles and wasted years. The Government should get behind Gatwick.

Tony Newman, Croydon Council leader

Kevin Davis, Kingston Council leader

Peter John, Southwark Council leader

Ravi Govindia, Wandsworth Council leader

November 17, 2015