Gatwick airport has submitted a planning application to bring its existing Northern Runway into routine use.

The airport’s second runway is currently limited to use as a taxiway, but in 2021 Gatwick unveiled proposals to reposition the centre line of the runway 12 metres to the north, to allow it to be used for regular flight departures. All arriving flights would continue to use the existing main runway.

It has now formally submitted a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate, which if approved could see construction work start in 2025 with the runway being ready for operational use by the end of the decade.

The DCO includes a number of legally binding environmental commitments, including the Northern Runway not being used routinely between 2300 and 0600 each day, and a ‘noise envelope’ commitment which would ensure that within nine years of the runway opening the airport’s operations will generate less noise than in pre-pandemic 2019.

The plans also include proposed investment in infrastructure around the airport, including flyovers at both the South and North Terminal roundabouts to separate local and airport traffic, a new lane westbound over the Brighton main rail line, a third lane to the A23 approaching the Longbridge roundabout, and new walking and cycle access.

The airport cited a recent YouGov poll of 3,000 residents across Sussex, Surrey and Kent, which showed that 78 per cent of respondents expressing an opinion supported the plans.

Gatwick said that if approved, the plans would help it to serve around 75 million passengers per year by the late 2030s – up from the current record of 46.5 million in 2019.

The airport is also undergoing a £10 million overhaul of its North Terminal, with works scheduled to be completed early next year.

Gatwick’s North Terminal undergoes multi-million-pound redevelopment

Commenting on the news Stewart Wingate, CEO, Gatwick Airport said:

“The Northern Runway plan will help secure the long-term future of the airport and economic prosperity for thousands of families, businesses, and future generations across the region.

“If approved, our plan will also improve airport resilience, meet future passenger demand, and increase competition in the London airport market, by providing vital new international connections to support ‘Global Britain’.

“The consultation and engagement activity over the past two years has been hugely valuable in shaping our plans to ensure they best meet the needs and requirements of local people, as well as our airlines, passengers and other stakeholders. We are confident that our plans are both economically and environmentally robust.”

The news comes as major UK airports prepare for growth in the post-Covid era.

This week London Stansted unveiled plans to extend its existing terminal building, while Birmingham airport is in the midst of building a new £40 million security hall, Manchester airport has commenced the final phase of its £1.3 billion transformation programme, and London City recently submitted a planning application for an increase in its annual passenger cap from 6.5 to 9 million by 2031.

Stansted airport unveils terminal extension plans

Heathrow airport’s plans for a third runway remain paused following the pandemic, with its website currently stating that “As passenger numbers recover, our immediate focus will be to continue to ensure the safe operation of the airport and to maintain our service levels while we consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on our next steps”.