Airport revives proposal for routine use as it seeks to enlarge capacity to a potential 75.5m passengers a year

Gatwick airport is to press ahead with plans to convert its emergency runway for routine use, in a sign that the aviation industry expects demand to rebound in full soon after the coronavirus pandemic. London’s second biggest airport will launch a public consultation next month on a scheme to enlarge capacity to a potential 75.5 million passengers a year – despite still only serving about a quarter of its pre-Covid traffic in August.

Gatwick had put investment on hold during the pandemic but is now reviving plans from 2018 to move the centre line of its emergency runway by 12 metres (39ft), far enough from the main runway to be used in parallel for departures.

In 2019, Gatwick was the busiest single-runway airport in the world, with about 950 takeoffs and landings a day. The proposals angered campaigners – not least became they came soon after the five-year Airports Commission process had rejected a Gatwick expansion in favour of a runway at Heathrow. Land for a larger runway outside Gatwick’s perimeter remains safeguarded for future development

Peter Barclay, the chair of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, said: “The world knows that aviation’s growth has climate consequences that it simply can’t afford and serious adverse impacts on health through noise and air pollution.” Gatwick says the runway is consistent with the government’s advice to maximise existing capacity. The airport claims the scheme would help generate about 18,400 additional jobs by 2038, and boost the local economy by £1.5bn.

The airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: “While we are currently experiencing low passenger and air traffic volumes due to the global pandemic, we are confident that Gatwick will not only fully recover to previous passenger levels but has the potential to continue to grow back into one of Europe’s premier airports.