Gatwick says rival set up fake pressure group
Gatwick: Airport chairman says the Back Heathrow group is no more than a campaign arm funded by the organisation
GATWICK Airport is claiming rival Heathrow has set up a fake community support campaign group to ‘scaremonger’ support for its bid to build a new runway. Sir Roy McNulty, Gatwick’s chairman, made the claim that Back Heathrow was a ‘campaign arm of Heathrow’ on Wednesday, in an open letter to Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies. “Back Heathrow wears the mask of a community group when it is simply a campaign arm of Heathrow, set up and funded by the airport,” said Sir Roy. “A cursory glance at Back Heathrow’s recent surveys of local opinion shows how it has been able to generate support essentially by scaremongering and, for example, setting up the entirely false choice between expansion and closure. “Its current questionnaire, sent to 750,000 households, is, similarly, leading with a straight choice question on whether Heathrow should grow or become smaller, for example.
“Clearly, if Gatwick expands, Heathrow would remain at least the same size as it is today and would continue to thrive as part of a competitive network of London airports.” He added: “I believe that the commission, and everybody else, should view the statements and outputs from the Back Heathrow campaign with strong scepticism.” Heathrow said it had announced as far back as June 2013 its intention to help fund Back Heathrow. “Heathrow has always been transparent about the fact that it helps fund Back Heathrow to provide a voice for the thousands of local people who would like to see expansion,” a spokesman for the airport said. “The campaign itself has more than 50,000 supporters and we support its continued efforts to give a voice to those who had previously not been heard in the debate on the airport’s future.” Back Heathrow campaign co-ordinator Rob Gray said it was simply outrageous for Gatwick’s chairman to accuse the residents of not being real. “Gatwick has resorted to desperate tactics, which suggests that local support for its proposal is minimal,” he said. “The uncomfortable truth for it is that all independent polls show the majority of local people support Heathrow expansion.” The Airports Commission has shortlisted three options for expanding capacity: a new runway at Gatwick or Heathrow or an extension of the northern runway at the latter.