Work on a new runway in the southeast could start before David Cameron leaves Downing Street if he opts for expanding Gatwick, according to the airport’s bosses.

Gatwick chairman Sir Roy McNulty has written to the prime minister setting out eight pledges that he argues would deliver a new runway within nine years.

The airport is promising an “accelerated timetable” under which construction would begin before the 2020 election and finish in 2025, five years earlier than rival Heathrow.
And writing in the Times today, Gatwick chief executive, Stewart Wingate, says: “[The pledges] promise a cap on airport charges for passengers, without a penny of taxpayers’ subsidy.
“They give a commitment to meet legal limits on air quality and a limit on the number of people most affected by noise, as well as the delivery of an industry-leading compensation scheme to those affected.”
Gatwick argues the planning process affecting Heathrow makes it likely to be a political issue in the 2020 election.
Whitehall officials are understood to have told Cameron that he can approve Heathrow or Gatwick after their revised submissions met concerns about noise and environmental impact.

The Airports Commission last year recommended expanding Heathrow, partly on the grounds that it would deliver the biggest boost to the economy, but a decision was put back before Christmas to this summer.

Gatwick’s latest submission is understood to challenge the commission’s findings.

Wingate said: “Of course new capacity will affect some people adversely; we do not pretend otherwise. But we know we can limit the number affected by noise, and that our air-quality impacts can remain within legal limits.

“Most importantly, we know our scheme can actually happen. That’s a legacy any prime minister can be proud of.”

However, residents’ group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions disputes Gatwick’s claims.

Chairman Sally Pavey said: “This is a white elephant waiting to happen as the airlines do not support it, it will destroy local communities and areas of national heritage, poison local people as there are no alternatives but to use the congested lanes and roads, and burden the tax payer with a half built airport that is not in London.”

“If the prime minister were to choose Gatwick, he would be ignoring his own expert advice and betraying the voters in the southeast that put him in power. 

“Gatwick exports holidaymakers out of the UK and does very little for the UK economy but would cost it dearly.”

Gatwick’s chairman also claimed that a family of four could save £100 each off the cost of a holiday if the prime minister were to reject plans for a new runway at Heathrow and approve expansion of Gatwick instead.

Sir Roy McNulty went on in his letter to David Cameron to say Gatwick would only charge airlines £15 per passenger to use its facilities if it is given permission to build a second runway.

A Gatwick source told the Daily Telegraph this compared with Heathrow’s planned charge of £25 per head, a figure which was likely to rise to between £35 and £40 if it is allowed to build a third runway, although this was denied by Heathrow.

“Gatwick has put forward detailed commercial proposals that guarantee passenger charges would be subject to an inflation-linked £15 firm price limit from the opening of the new runway in 2025 through to 2050,” according to the letter.

Airport charges include aircraft landing and other charges related to the use of airport infrastructure such as runways and passenger terminals.