Gatwick Airport plans to open standby runway for departures
Gatwick Airport has revealed plans to use its emergency runway for routine flights, amid criticism from both MPs and campaigners.
The airport said it would seek planning permission to widen the airstrip in order to bring it into full passenger use by the mid-2020s.
The west Sussex airport said the move was in line with government policy.
Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions said it would lead to "a second runway by stealth".
Gatwick lost out to Heathrow Airport in a bid to obtain government approval to build an additional runway, amid a need for more airport capacity in the south-east of England.
The "master plan" would see the emergency runway widened by 12m (39ft) to comply with safety regulations and used for departures only.
The airport said the measure aligned with the government's policy of "making best use of existing runways".
It said the focus of the plan would be on using new technology to "build capacity and resilience" on the main runway.
The plan also recommends safeguarding land for an additional runway should there be the need to build one.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said a 12-week public consultation showed there was "strong support for Gatwick and the local area's ambitions".
However, MPs from the Gatwick Co-ordination Group said the airport "has continually under-invested in the local amenities and social infrastructure that would be required to support a project of this size and scale".
They said: "We cannot support expansion of the airport without a comprehensive investment in the local area which would ease pressure on the over-stretched road and rail systems serving the airport."
Peter Barclay, of Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, said the news was devastating to communities and argued there were "rapid changes" to what was known about environmental impact of aviation.