Sir Howard Davies criticises Gatwick's calls for new runway

Posted On: 
29th September 2015

Ministers should overlook “misguided” calls for Gatwick to be backed for a new runway over Heathrow, the head of the Airports Commission has said.

Sir Howard Davies, who chaired the commission into a new runway in the south east, recommended Heathrow receive a third runway earlier this year.

Sir Howard claimed the investment would add £147bn to the UK’s economic growth and 70,000 jobs by 2050.

However, his recommendation drew criticism from MPs, including Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith, who said the report overlooked the environmental impact of a third runway.

In letters to the Department for Transport and the London Assembly, Sir Howard said Mr Johnson’s assessment was “flawed”.

He also argued “limited weight should be placed on the suggestion that air quality represents a significant obstacle to expansion”.


Since the report's publication, Gatwick executives have insisted that Sir Howard’s analysis was “biased” and argued Gatwick would provide cheaper fares for passengers due to the lower cost of its new runway.

The airport's chief executive Stewart Wingate attacked the inquiry for containing “many omissions and basic errors” that he said bring into question its credibility.

In a 50-page dossier, Gatwick claimed that the commission’s conclusions did not factor in the environmental impact of an expanded Heathrow.

The airport also claimed that the commission analysed passenger numbers that were 10 years out of date. 

Sir Howard however sought to dismiss the criticisms, saying that the claim passengers would receive cheaper fares was “entirely misguided”.

He said it was also “nonsense” the commission had overlooked the implication of noise pollution from a third runway at Heathrow.

In response, Mr Wingate said: “I am sure many people will be surprised that Sir Howard maintains that ‘limited weight’ should be placed on the issue of air quality as an obstacle to airport expansion.

“It is currently at illegal levels at Heathrow and it is hard to see how millions more car journeys with a third runway will not make it even worse. Only Gatwick can guarantee that the country gets the economic benefits that it needs from aviation expansion.”