Gatwick has launched a scathing attack on the Airports Commission after it gave the nod to Heathrow, hinting it could launch a legal challenge on the basis of its ‘flawed evidence’.
The Government is still to make a final decision on expanding the UK’s airport capacity, with well publicised rifts within the cabinet set to make the issue more complicated despite the Commission’s recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow rather than a second at Gatwick.
In a bid to influence ministers, this week Gatwick published a 50-page dossier, which savaged the findings of the Sir Howard Davies’ Commission stating its ‘flawed approach’ had resulted in ‘erroneous conclusions’ particularly on the noise and environmental impact.
The document states: ‘In evaluating the air quality impacts of the schemes, where all evidence including updated forecasts from DEFRA points to continued breach of air quality legal limits in the Heathrow area for the foreseeable future, the Commission has adopted a flawed legal approach to the assessment and reached the erroneous conclusions that it would be lawful for Heathrow North West Runway Scheme to be constructed and operated, rather than recommend the Gatwick scheme which can lawfully be delivered and which would have clearly the much less adverse impact upon human health.’
It goes on to criticise the Commission’s analysis of the nature and timing of the need for additional capacity, regional connectivity, the economic benefits to the UK, the noise impacts and the Heathrow scheme’s deliverability.
Outlining specific objections Gatwick highlights that the Commission used estimates of Gatwick’s passenger numbers that were ten years out of date - expecting Gatwick to reach 40 million passengers in 2024 whereas the airport will reach that number this year.
Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said: ‘The final report contains so many omissions and basic errors that its reliability as the basis of aviation policy must be called into question. The findings of this report simply do not add up.
‘Britain is in danger of losing out once again if we repeat mistakes of the past – Heathrow has failed time and again and the Airports Commission report and the conditions placed on expansion have not solved the huge obstacles confronting it. I remain confident that when all the risks and benefits are properly considered, Gatwick will still represent the best option for UK airport expansion.’
A Heathrow spokesman said in response: ‘The Airports Commission undertook a £20m two and a half year detailed study. It unanimously and unambiguously chose Heathrow because it is the only option that will connect the whole of the UK.’
A spokesman for the Airport’s Commission told the media: ‘The evidence in the final report was subject to extensive analysis and consultation and we are confident that it is fir for purpose.’