Local communities and environmental campaigners have vowed to fight Gatwick expansion.

The new commitment from Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (Cagne) came as it was reported by the Mail on Sunday that the airport’s shareholders backed plans for regular use of a secondary runway adding 90 flights a day.

Gatwick owners, French infrastructure company Vinci and infrastructure fund GIP, have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade a second ‘standby’ runway, currently used as a taxiway emergency runway, for regular use.

It would be used alongside Gatwick’s main runway for short-haul operations by the end of the decade.

A planning application for the project will be developed including environmental surveys with the prospect of public consultations starting in the summer.

The scheme comes despite the Covid pandemic hitting Gatwick hard, with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Air either scaling back or transferring operations.

Passenger demand is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels at Gatwick until 2023 but the northern runway expansion would add £2 billion to the economy and create thousands of jobs.

A Cagne spokesperson said the group would launch a 2021 campaign to ‘Stop Gatwick Expansion’ by opposing a development consent order that Gatwick requires to progress the runway upgrade.

“We have made available a standard letter that residents can adapt to send to Members of Parliament, local authorities and parish councils to oppose this French infrastructure company’s actions,” the group said.

“For an airport that is on its knees due to Covid and Brexit, this is a clear illustration of intent by the management and overseas shareholders of Gatwick airport to ignore the noise and emissions issues it has been creating for years over the rural areas of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.”

A Gatwick spokesman told the newspaper: “Progressing our plans now could help us secure long-term prosperity and jobs in the region for years to come.”

The scheme is claimed to be environmentally sustainable, in line with the airport’s bid to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.