Video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham
Gatwick Airport is at a significant stage in its bid for airport expansion but campaigners are vowing to fight its proposals all the way.
Since 2018, the airport has been outlining its desire to move its northern runway, which is currently used for emergencies, by a distance of 12 metres so it can be brought into regular use.
It would mean up to 15 additional aircraft movements each hour with the passenger forecasts almost doubling as the move could see 75 million passengers a year by late 2030s compared to the 46 million seen in 2019.
Project bosses boast big economic benefits with a low environmental impact but campaigners disagree and are prepared to go to court to fight any Government approval, with a lengthy planning process ahead.
Gatwick Airport's Head of Noise and Airspace strategy Andy Sinclair said: "It's a huge step for the airport and a huge step for the local area, particularly bearing in mind what we've been through during COVID.
"It will mean more than 10,000 jobs and each year the money generated over billion pounds in the economy. So enormous in all respects.
"I think we consider it to be low impact for a couple of reasons. One is the construction itself. So almost all of the construction is going to take place within the airfield boundary, which is really important, except where we're trying to improve local infrastructure.
"So there'll be a lot of work on local roads to improve efficiency and flow of traffic. But also in terms of the project itself and how we grow traffic sustainably or gradually over time following the introduction, maybe in the early thirties.
"We think that we'll be able to deliver a much quieter operation and it's something we are so confident about, we guarantee that within ten years of the operation going live, there will be less noise at the airport than there was in 2019 for stuff."
The airport says its scheme is in line with Government policy on making use of existing space and cites investment in cleaner aviation as reducing the impact on climate change.
Peter Barclay from the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign isn't convinced and argues the runway reconfiguration proposal is flawed.
"There is the estimates at Gatwick themselves that there'll be a thousand tonnes of additional carbon emissions each year, which is just a fantastic amount, and they can't be accommodated by these fantasy sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen airplanes which aren't flying yet.
"There is a health impact with air pollution, not just carbon, carbon emissions are a worldwide problem. We know that. But there are air pollution problems. There's particular concern building about ultra-fine particles and evidence shows that areas around airports have very high levels.
"The evidence we're given on that when after the COVID lockdowns, an awful lot of people had been made redundant or furloughed, they didn't go back to work because they didn't want to go back to work at the airport. The airport is no longer the attractive place to work.
"We're prepared to go to the courts. You've got people that live under flight paths that live 15 miles away.
"There's significant areas of outstanding natural beauty where you would expect to receive tranquility being a tranquil area but you're not because you are overflown."
Even without additional runway capacity the airport is expanding with transatlantic carrier Norse starting flights from Gatwick to Los Angeles and San Francisco with further expansion planned for Boston.
The Norwegian firm is employing 370 people at the airport making it the company's largest base.
Lauren Morrison, who is a pilot is relishing the opportunity, said: "It's brilliant. We've got six aircraft based in Gatwick all of them hold 338 passengers.
"It's really getting everyone to their destinations and bringing the world back together."
Bjorn Tore Larsen, Chief Executive Officer, Norse Atlantic said: "Norse Atlantic Airways firmly believes in the importance of supporting local economies and creating job opportunities.
"We recognise the significance of London Gatwick as a thriving hub for both business and leisure travel. By fostering partnerships, investing in infrastructure, and prioritising the recruitment of local talent, we aim to not only boost employment but also contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of the region."
Gatwick's plans will see further consultation as the Secretary of State weighs up whether or not to approve the scheme.
It's like the impassioned battle over the future of the airport's airspace will only intensify over the coming months.
Campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions said: "We are all facing a climate emergency, and many have now decided not to fly because they are aware of what flying is doing to the climate, aviation being one of the biggest threats our planet faces.
"No responsible owners of an airport should therefore be seeking expansion at this time, especially as a second runway would add over 1m tonnes of extra carbon emissions a year, on top of that already produced from the main runway."
The airport is hoping construction could begin in 2025 with the first passengers taking off from the new runway by the end of the decade.
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