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Gatwick claims decision to build third runway at Heathrow could face legal challenges

Gatwick Airport has unleashed a stinging attack on the Airports Commission, calling its recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow “biased” and claiming it has left itself open to legal challenges.

The 50-page dossier released by Gatwick highlighted “key errors” and “omissions” in the Sir Howard Davies-led report and said its “flawed methodology” could be susceptible to a legal challenge, if the government decides to back the decision.

It also said the Commission had not considered the many risks associated with building a third runway at Heathrow.

The dossier comes a month after the Commission recommended Heathrow ahead of Gatwick as the preferred location for airport expansion in London.

The review, which took over two-and-a-half years to finish, cost £20m.

Sir Howard cited economic benefits as the main reason for expansion at Heathrow, which Gatwick has challenged, claiming the economic benefits were “virtually the same” for both airports.

The dossier questioned the analysis of the economic impacts, carried out by PwC, saying any decision based on this work could be “susceptible to a legal challenge from those who might wish to undermine that recommendation.”

It also criticised the Commission’s assessment of the impact a third runway at Heathrow would have in terms of air and noise pollution, the financing of the project, and the Commission’s belief that the runway could be finished by 2026.

It said the Commission had not “accurately portrayed” the “complex challenges of construction”, such as tunnelling on the M25, so was therefore unable to say whether the work “was actually deliverable by 2026”.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said the findings “simply do not add up”.

He added: “We expected a well-considered examination of all options, but instead the final report contains so many omissions and basic errors that its reliability as the basis of aviation policy must be called into question.

“Britain is in danger of losing out once again if we repeat mistakes of the past – Heathrow has failed time and again and the Airports Commission report and the conditions placed on expansion have not solved the huge obstacles confronting it.”

He added: “In recent weeks, it has become abundantly clear that Heathrow won’t meet these conditions, nor will they pay for the £6bn in surface access improvements needed, and Heathrow’s airlines have shown they don’t want to pay for the runway.

“The recommendation for Heathrow is unravelling by the day.”

An Airports Commission spokesman said: “The evidence in the final report was subject to extensive analysis and consultation and we are confident that it is fit for purpose.”

A spokesman for Heathrow said: “The Airports Commission undertook a £20m, two-and-a-half year, detailed study of where the next runway should be in the UK.  It unanimously and unambiguously chose Heathrow because it is the only option that will connect the whole UK to global growth.”

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