The final decision on possible expansion at Gatwick looks set to be taken within the next few weeks, after new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling revealed he wants a ‘rapid decision’ on expanding the region’s airport capacity.
While the government has yet to respond to the recommendation of the Davies Commission for a third runway to be built at Heathrow and not Gatwick, Mr Grayling told BBC Radio 4:
“I’m going to look at this very carefully in the coming weeks. What I’ll be saying to the business community is I think we need to take a rapid decision to provide certainty over what’s going to happen – that will be my objective.”
Despite the transport secretary refusing to declare his favoured plan, Tunbridge Wells resident’s fears over the expansion of Gatwick were renewed after Sadiq Khan pledged his support for a second runway.
The Mayor of London made the announcement at an event on Friday, the first time a major political figure has shared a stage with the executives of either Gatwick or Heathrow, to pledge their partisan support. He urged Theresa May to make the decision ‘as swiftly as possible’ to speed up the economic benefits for the area.
The new prime minister reportedly told a Medway MP that she would not back the development of a Thames Estuary airport, essentially putting Gatwick’s bid back on the table. She has previously indicated she is against another runway at Heathrow.
According to media reports, Mrs May raised her objections to the ‘Boris Island’ plan when seeking the support of Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti – who subsequently went on to back her successful leadership bid.
And with her new cabinet containing several figures who oppose Heathrow’s third runway, a victory for Gatwick’s executives is looking increasingly likely.
Angus Stewart, of the Tunbridge Wells Anti-Aircraft Noise Group (TWAANG) said:
“The Davies Report was unambiguous that Heathrow is to be preferred to Gatwick. It is difficult to understand how the Mayor of London can set aside such a clear independent opinion.
“As a foreign-owned, profit motivated organisation Gatwick’s ambitions are transparent. It is anxious to sell the business for maximum profit once planning permission is given, leaving the British taxpayer to fund the infrastructure and other costs, and trashing the South East countryside.”