Major proposals for the expansion of Gatwick Airport moved a step closer today as officials revealed their final masterplan for development over the next 15 years.
Airport bosses are now preparing a planning application to convert an existing emergency stand-by runway into full-time routine use.
They also plan to use new technology to increase capacity on the current main runway and to safeguard land near the airport for a future possible runway - but stress they have no immediate plans for that.
Officials say it will mean a major boost to local jobs.
The runway changes could mean passenger traffic increasing by up to 27 per cent by 2035. The airport currently deals with 55 take-off and landings an hour and, if the changes go ahead, will be able to handle up to 70 movements an hour.
Bosses say the changes will mean a jobs boom and economic boost for the airport and surrounding area.
A spokesman said: “We would create 8,000 jobs at the airport and a further 12,000 jobs in the local region.” He said it would also mean a £1 billion boost to the local economy.
“This development is really important for the growth of the region. Gatwick is the biggest employer south of London and this trype of investment into the region is really important for generations to come.”
A planning application is now being prepared for converting the airport’s emergency runway into full-time use, but officials say it will be used only for departures by smaller aircraft.
A ‘development consent order’ is now being sought for the change which, officials say, will include public consultation next year to allow local authorities, communites and businesses to have their say.
Meanwhile, safeguarding land at the airport for future possible use, say officials, has been the case since 2003. “The airport is no longer actively pursuing plans for an additional runway,” said the airport spokesman.
“Heathrow won that competition. But if - in the future - the land was ever needed, it would be a real shame if that land had been built on and homes or livelihoods had to be lost.”
Previously, opponents to Gatwick expansion have voiced fears that safeguarding the land could lead to three runways operating there.
However, revealing their final masterplan today, officials say that two thirds of people who responded to a public consultation over the proposals were in favour of the expansion.
Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said: “We are grateful to the thousands of people that responded to our draft masterplan consultation and whose views will continue to help shape our plans.
“We are encouraged that public consultation has shown strong support for Gatwick and the local area’s ambitions.
“The plans would deliver additional capacity for Gatwick, which will provide choices for the future – including incrementally growing our airport to meet demand and continuing to provide solid operational performance for passengers and airlines.
“This would be the biggest private investment for the region in the coming years, which would result in significant local economic benefits, including new jobs for the area.
“Gatwick’s global connections are needed more than ever but as we take our plans forward, we must do so in the most sustainable and responsible way and in full partnership with our local councils, communities, passengers and partners.”