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