Airport expansion poll: Heathrow leads the way but alternatives shouldn’t be ruled out

Posted: 4 December 2015 | Katie Sadler | 2 comments

Results of a snap poll carried out by International Airport Review reveal Heathrow is the preferred choice ahead of Gatwick for proposed airport expansion in South East England. However, the poll also unveils a shift towards exploring alternative solutions…

Airport expansion poll: Heathrow leads the way

Following the publication of the Airports Commission’s final report on airport expansion in South East England, International Airport Review undertook a Gatwick versus Heathrow snap poll in order to gauge current public opinion.  With votes often level-pegging between the two airports, the final result suggests Heathrow is the preferred choice for expansion with 718 votes equating to a 41.9 percent share. However, comments suggest a concern for environmental impact in the form of noise and air pollution.  Gatwick fell back during the latter stage of the poll recording 566 votes or a 25.6 percent share, with many citing inadequate communications and infrastructure as Gatwick’s main failure for expansion. There was also great concern that environmental damage had been dismissed from the debate with fears of climate change, habitat loss and open countryside impacted with any form of expansion.

Very strong opinion for an alternative to airport expansion at Gatwick or Heathrow

The poll revealed very strong public opinion for an alternative to expansion at either Gatwick or Heathrow with the poll’s third option ‘other’ coming second place with 32.5 percent or 718 votes. Many believe airport operators should better utilise capacity at Gatwick and Heathrow as well as smaller regional airports. A comment left by a voter suggested ‘cargo flights could be reallocated to airports that are geared towards cargo clearing, thus facilitating centrally located airports like Gatwick and Heathrow to accept a higher number of passenger flights.’

Alternatives suggested by voters included the Airports Commission’s rejected proposal for a hub airport development in the Thames Estuary or ‘Boris Island’ as suggested by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. The reopening and development of Manston Airport in East Kent also proved to be a popular choice with one voter stating, “If we have to have another airport in the south-east it should be at Manston. It will bring much needed employment to relatively poor areas of Kent and Essex and its environmental impact is not as bad as Gatwick or Heathrow. Ignore the vested interests from the ‘Big Two’ and be bold and leave a meaningful legacy.”  Thanet Council had pledged to compulsory purchase and reopen Manston airport, however, plans were scuppered following concerns over finances of the US-based investment company, which said it would underwrite the costs of the council buying the site.

Voters also suggested the ‘pain’ of expansion should be spread across the rest of the UK with a ‘northern hub’ being considered as an alternative aiding the government’s plan for a Northern Powerhouse. Commenting on the poll, a voter explained “The North need their equivalent of Heathrow, fit to service Northern Hub like International needs and to encourage an alternative magnet for investment beyond the London obsession.”

According to newspaper reports a final decision by government could be announced as early as this month, until then the debate continues to rage.

All comments associated with the poll can be viewed here.

International Airport Review would like to thank all participants who voted in the snap poll and for their insightful comments.

2 responses to “Airport expansion poll: Heathrow leads the way but alternatives shouldn’t be ruled out”

  1. I support a 3rd runway at Heathrow. Heathrow should get the go ahead.

  2. The Supporters of Manston Airport campaign group totally endorse this results of this report.
    There should be a much greater use of regional airports in general and Manston Airport in particular as it has one of the biggest runways in the UK.

    Further to your statement regarding the ‘scuppered plans’ of one investment company – the local Thanet District Council is about to re-open the tendering process for the CPO and there are other investors waiting in the wings to present their business plans.

    On the agenda for the next Cabinet meeting on 10th December –
    is item 5 – “Manston Airport CPO potential indemnity partner.”

    1.1 Following the October Cabinet decision not to proceed with RiverOak, it is recommended that the council carry out a further soft market testing exercise to gauge the level of interest in becoming an indemnity partner for a potential CPO for Manston Airport. This will include a public advert and a month-long period for the receipt of expressions of interest.
    1.2 The requests for expressions of interest will be based upon the exercise undertaken last year with a particular emphasis on how the public interest will be met and proposals to finance the CPO.

    2.1 Once the relevant documents have been drafted it is anticipated that the advert will be placed in early January with responses provided in early February. The assessment will take up to two weeks and will then be reported to Cabinet.
    2.2 Subject to the results of this soft-market testing a full procurement exercise may need to be carried out.

    3.1.1 There will be legal costs in advising upon and redrafting the necessary paperwork and the costs of the advertisement of the soft-market testing exercise.

    4.0 Recommendation
    4.1 Cabinet agree to a soft market testing exercise being undertaken and instruct the Director of Corporate Governance to carry out the exercise.…/s…/Manston%202%20report.pdf

    We WILL get this airport flying again!
    Follow our progress here –


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