News and Reports on changes to Gatwick's air traffic handling and the outcomes
GATWICK’S CONTINUING AMBITIONS
Gatwick’s Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate, has stated his intention to ‘Build Back Bigger’. This is at odds with the Government’s policy to ‘Build Back Better’, with its strong emphasis on Green issues. Gatwick’s majority shareholder, Vinci Airports SAS, a French company, have undertaken to fund fully Gatwick’s plan to covert their standby runway for regular use.
Gatwick’s plans assume that aviation will return to continuing growth once the pandemic is behind us, even if it takes a few years. This may no longer be realistic. Gatwick has also published some extravagant claims as to its benefits to the local economy, these may not stand up to more sober analysis. The aviation industry may have peaked in 2019.
Climate Change has risen high on the agenda during the pandemic, aviation’s growing contribution may no longer be tolerated;
Businesses have discovered more economic ways of communicating and changed habits, it is thought that the level of international travel is unlikely to recover to previous levels;
Airports have been forced to automate rapidly during the pandemic, making for fewer jobs per passenger. New jobs servicing the automated systems are unlikely to be local;
Many airport jobs are not new, they are displaced from elsewhere (eg terminal shops take away from the High Street);
UK tourists spend substantially more abroad than visiting tourists here;
Other airports in the past have supported their expansion applications on supposed economic and employment benefits which have not materialised. Manchester is quoted as an example.
The proposed increase in activity from the Main Runway is substantial but, at present, this seems to require no overview. CNGs are looking for ways to challenge this as unreasonable.
Conversion of the Standby Runway does require a Development Consent Order (DCO, a planning application) and Gatwick are preparing their case. Gatwick’s economic and employment claims will look seductive when presented to local planners, they need to be rigorously checked.
The New Economics Foundation has produced a report, Turbulence Expected, which makes comments on climate and economic issues relevant to Gatwick’s expansion plans. See or download the Report here:
Flying already is a significant contributor to environmental damage, including CO2 and NOx emissions, and its ambitious expansion plans would exacerbate the problem if implemented.
Movements such as Flight Shame (flygskam in Swedish where the movement originated), proposals for a frequent flyer surcharge and growing opposition to airport expansion both in the UK and internationally, are all evidence of the growing resistance to the unrestrained expansion of commercial flying.
Gatwick’s Master Plan goes totally against this trend. We are also concerned that the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) among others are unlikely to respond to these changes with any speed and will continue their indulgent approach to the aviation lobby.
What we can do in the first place is to lobby MP candidates to ensure that they are aware of our concern about environmental issues and the part aviation plays, and write to our newly-elected MPs, whoever they may be, and continue to press them to take action to contain and reduce aviation’s contribution to the problem.
Without some very determined action, we are warned that the future is bleak.
INCREASE CAPACITY ON GATWICK'S EXISTING MAIN RUNWAY:
Gatwick plan to use a new air traffic control system, already in use at Heathrow, which will enable arriving aircraft to follow each other more closely, increasing the maximum capacity from the present 55 to around 60 an hour (nearly 10%). They also plan to increase the number of flights in the less busy parts of the day, making the disturbance more relentless.
BRING THE AIRPORT’S EXISTING STANDBY RUNWAY INTO ROUTINE USE:
This will require Planning and Government permission following the August 2019 expiry of an existing agreement that the Standby Runway can only be used in emergencies or when the Main Runway is unavailable. To meet safety standards the Standby Runway will have to be moved to take it further from the Main Runway. When in operation it would be used for short-range departures, and is expected to increase capacity by 80,000 flights a year by 2027, an increase of 28% over the present 280,800 flights.
We know from experience that higher traffic levels force arrivals to the East over the center of Tunbridge Wells, and this happens especially in the busy evening and night period when people are trying to get to sleep. The World Health Organisation's 2018 report on the health impact of aircraft noise recommends a night time margin of 10dB below daytime noise levels (perceived as half as loud), making it clear that noise at night is a particular and significant problem. Again, we think that the numbers affected should be minimised, and as the aviation industry’s definition that the controlled night period does not start until 11:30pm, Gatwick’s suggestion that they might consider reducing flights at night is of little reassurance. Its business model requires the short-range flights on which it and the airlines such as easyJet depends to make three rotations a day.
Gatwick claim that this expansion can be achieved ‘without increasing the airport’s noise footprint’. This seems an ambitious claim, and we currently have no sanction should it prove wrong. It is Government policy that the benefits of aviation growth should be shared, but it is unclear if those increasingly disturbed will experience anything other than loss.
The Times pointed out recently that ‘Gatwick station was recently named in Which? magazine as one of Britain’s worst, with 60 per cent of its services failing to run on schedule. The burden on the M23 spur serving the airport is becoming unsustainable. Road and rail links between Gatwick and Heathrow are far from satisfactory. Any credible expansion scheme needs to address these issues.’ The Gatwick Plan fails to mention these issues, how they are to be addressed and who will pay.
CONTINUING TO SAFEGUARD THE LAND FOR AN ADDITIONAL RUNWAY IN THE FUTURE:
Gatwick is not actively pursuing what would be a third runway today but it is clearly their ambition, and it would enable a three-runway Gatwick to rival the expanded Heathrow for size. The entire area around Gatwick would become unrecognisable. Our concerns over the implications of the regular use of the present Standby Runway apply with even greater force.
TWAANG’s Chair, Irene Fairbairn, gave a short presentation to the Town Forum meeting on Thursday 22nd November 2018, to explain and express our concerns for Tunbridge Wells over Gatwick's expansion plans. You can see or download the presentation below:
Ed has previously prepared detailed reports based on observations made in Langton Green, at the centre Gatwick's Westerly arrivals swathe. Below is his report for 2018. He identifies some improvements, the most successful of which has been the near-elimination of the A320 series whine, but in general he finds little change. This is consistent with our own findings, that the NMB is achieving all too little. You can read Ed's report directly or download it to your device.
We are most grateful to Ed for his contribution to the debate.
You can see more detailed comments about the proposed RNN trial under the NMB tab, or click HERE.
Please note that this presentation has been extended in the RNN section in the light of the discussion that was held following the presentation.
NMB WORKSHOP ATTENDANCE
Workshops were introduced to widen participation in the debates on NMB topics, but nonetheless attendance is still significantly restricted, with the choice of attendees being dictated by the NMB.
We and others think that this is still an unsatisfactory position, limiting the ability of interested parties to be properly informed and so participate fully in debating the issues.
A way forward could be to enable anyone who would like to attend to come, but if necessary on an observer basis.
GROWTH AND NOISE
Stewart Wingate, CEO, has been proclaiming the success of Gatwick at increasing the number of flights and passengers. He recently made the following statement in the International Airport Review, 29 May 2017:
“Since launched in 2010, the airport has grown from 31 million to 44 million passengers a year, yet Gatwick’s environmental footprint today is the same or smaller than in 2010, making this growth close to neutral environmentally.”
His claim on the population affected is incorrect. Between 2014 and 2015 alone the number of people within the noise contour greater than 57dB rose by 5.6%, and the area increased too (Gatwick’s figures). Since then flight and passenger numbers have continued to increase.
In spite of claims about high levels of satisfaction among passengers, Gatwick remains one of the worst performing airports in the world. Continuing increasing in traffic will only make this worse. This is the Independent Newspaper’s report from June 2017:
PRESENTATION AT THE Royal Aeronautical Society October 2017
The Gatwick Communities coordinator, Charles Lloyd, gave a very eloquent speech on the subject of regulation of the Aviation industry at the Royal Aeronautical Society in October 2017. You can see his presentation on YouTube, click HERE.
Charles is also Chair of the Aviation Communities Forum, an umbrella organisation for Community groups concerned about aircraft noise. To visit their site click HERE.
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE ON GATWICK'S NOISE Westminster Hall, 10 January 2018
This is the second debate organised by Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, the first took place on Wednesday 20 April 2016. This time the subject was ‘Growth and noise reduction at Gatwick airport‘. You can see the debate by clicking HERE. (Note: when the page has loaded, click on the Gatwick debate item under the AGENDA heading)
You can also listen to the debate by clicking on the button below. Our site is compatible with smartphones and tablets so you can choose to do this at any convenient time and place.