So, BAA’s monopoly is finally ending. We have met the news that Gatwick is to be bought by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) with mixed views. From a personal point of view the breaking up of such a monopoly can only be a good thing – how has it lasted so long?
From a Woodland Trust point of view, the ongoing threat of an additional runway which could threaten 75 hectares of ancient woodland (including the Trust’s Edolphs Copse and Ricketts Wood) is serious. There has been much debate on the likelihood of the additional runway. The Air Transport White Paper indicated the case for a second runway was not as strong here as at Stansted and Heathrow. The paper did however also recommended that the land around Gatwick was safeguarded from development to keep it free for airport expansion, and so the threat lingers like a bad smell or unpleasant taste.
There is unlikely to be further development until the legal agreement that was drawn up by West Sussex County Council in 1979 to prevent a second runway before 2019 expires but we don’t know what else GIP have in store as part of their plans to improve Gatwick. As part of the coalition AirportWatch we will automatically be keeping an eye on what happens at Gatwick – if these plans are at the expense of ancient woodland we will take the threat very seriously and fight for its protection.