Gatwick to continue with second runway plans as it clears CAA hurdle

The move comes despite announcements from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic on a suspension of activities at the London site.

London Gatwick Airport this week cleared an initial hurdle in its bid to begin using its northern runway, which is currently only operational for emergencies.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority approved Gatwick’s application to change its entry in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), which currently states that the northern runway will only be used when the southern runway is non-operational. The two cannot be used at the same time due to insufficient spacing between them. Gatwick’s application to use both runways in tandem would mean it would have to move the northern runway 12 meters to the north, which requires a change to its AIP.

The CAA’s approval of the change, which does not include an expansion of flight numbers, ensures that owners VINCI Airports (50.01 percent) and Global Infrastructure Partners (49.99 percent) can move forward to the next stages of the process, and Gatwick confirmed its plans to do so.

“Gatwick welcomes the CAA’s decision relating to the level of airspace change required in relation to our proposed plans to bring our existing Northern Runway into routine use,” a spokesman for Gatwick said. “We will continue to work on preparing a planning application, known as a Development Consent Order, which will be the subject of full public consultation at a later date and then following submission for an examination by the Planning Inspectorate.”

Gatwick’s plans come despite Virgin Atlantic saying on Tuesday that it was ending operations at Gatwick as its financial woes continue in light of the coronavirus crisis. Last week, British Airways told staff it may not lift its suspension of activities at Gatwick. Passenger numbers are down 18.1 percent in Q1 2020 at Gatwick, compared with the same period in 2019.

Airport developments in the UK also face significant hurdles aside from covid-19. A Court of Appeal’s judgement in February that Heathrow’s proposed third runway was in breach of the UK government’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement means that if Gatwick’s plans to use the second runway eventually necessitate a passenger increase, it could face a similar legal challenge.