Gatwick has released a draft masterplan for the future of the airport, including the potential of bringing its current standby runway into routine use.

The plan would see the maintenance and emergency runway – which runs parallel to the main runway – fractionally further to the north, in order for it to comply with “all international safety requirement”.

The airport said that if the standby runway was brought into use, it would only be used for “smaller departing aircraft only”, and could potentially be brought into routine use by the mid 2020s.

The airport’s current planning agreement – which specifies that the standby runway can only be used when the main runway is closed for maintenance or emergencies – will come to an end in 2019.

According to a report in The Times the plan would be to move the standby runway 12 metres to the north at a cost of up to £500 million, allowing it to handle up to 50,000 extra flights per year.

Gatwick said that it is still in the early stages of exploring “the innovative development” – which would require full public consultation – but says that it would be delivered “without increasing the airport’s noise footprint and provide greater operational resilience”.

The airport added that it is confident that the project “would remain within the existing airport footprint and existing framework for airport charges”.

It also highlights a recent call from the UK government for airports to “make best use of their existing runways”.

The draft master plan sets out growth across three future scenarios – using new technology to increase capacity of the existing main runway; bringing the standby runway into use; and safeguarding land which could be used to build a brand new runway to the south of the airport.

A 12-week consultation has been launched to gather feedback on the draft master plan, which can be read here.

Commenting on the news Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer, London Gatwick said:

“Our draft master plan marks the start of a new phase for Gatwick – building on what has made the airport the success it is today, and pioneering again to take advantage of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

“As the UK heads towards an important new chapter, Gatwick’s growing global connections are needed more than ever but this must be achieved in the most sustainable way. From using new technologies on our main runway, to the innovative proposal to bring our existing standby runway into routine use, our draft master plan offers agile, productive and low-impact ways of unlocking much-needed new capacity and increased resilience from within our existing infrastructure.

“Gatwick’s growth has been built through partnership so as we look ahead at our future development, we want to shape these plans together with our local communities, our passengers, our airlines and partners. We would encourage as many people as possible to take part in our consultation process. This will help shape our plans for securing the region’s prosperity.”

Earlier this week, campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) responded to an article in the Sunday Times that revealed the airport’s plan, saying it had fears that aircraft might hit obstacles at the end of the runway if pilots take off from the wrong position.

A spokesman for the group also said the increase in flights would increase the noise impact on local communities.