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  1. Analysis
September 14, 2022

Gatwick intends to boost regional economy by creating AEZ

Gatwick Airport strives to articulate an identity created from the region’s attributes.

By Jasleen Mann

As the UK’s second-largest airport, Gatwick Airport has a significant impact on the local and regional economy. The increase in people expecting to travel in recent months has encouraged growth, an aspect which was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gatwick’s South Terminal reopened for flights in March 2022, with the airport having operated a single terminal since the early days of the pandemic. Since the lifting of restrictions, it has been noted that passenger numbers have returned to around 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

Short-haul travel and low-cost airlines based at Gatwick has contributed to the airport’s growth while long-haul routes are important for international trade. The airport also welcomed new airlines such as JetBlue and Norse Atlantic over the year and saw an increase from airlines such as British Airways , Vueling and Wizz Air.

In addition, by providing thousands of jobs across the region and recruiting over 400 security staff members in summer 20222, Gatwick Airport aims to boost the local economy. 

A Gatwick Airport spokesperson, speaking with Airport Technology, said: “If Gatwick is successful in its plans to bring its Northern Runway into routine use alongside its Main Runway, it could create a £2 billion boost and an additional 18,400 jobs for the region by 2038, including jobs in construction and engineering. 

“Gatwick is also extending its register for local businesses interested in supplying the airport and launched its Outline Employment, Skills and Business Strategy (OESBS), which aims to ensure local people are supported through, long-term work experience, apprenticeship and graduate programmes, and by developing construction training and upskilling opportunities with industry training partners.”

Reconsidering investment

According to UK-based urban policy research charity The Centre for Cities, Crawley was named most at risk of job losses due to Covid-19. In 2020, staff numbers were reduced by over 40% despite pre-pandemic statistics highlighting that the airport supported one in 12 jobs within the region as well as contributing £2.7bn to regional GDP.

The spokesperson says: “While the airport remained open throughout the pandemic, passenger numbers dropped to unprecedented low levels and it was against this backdrop that swift decisions were taken to protect the business as early as March 2020, with a company restructure, moving all operations to a single terminal and suspending much of the capital investment programme.”

“We will use this report, plus further roundtable feedback, to take next steps that could help inform future work, including examining successful city-based inward investment models, developing a greater understanding of what a successful Gatwick zone would look like, ensuring progress on a Gatwick AEZ links in with existing work, and exploring other geographies to include in any future Gatwick AEZ,” the spokesperson says.

A sense of direction

While there is no focused governance, The Gatwick Diamond is a business location providing an economic identity to the area and covers a lot of the immediate economic area in West Sussex and East Surrey.

The Gatwick Diamond area is just over 600 square miles and includes Crawley, Reigate-Redhill, Dorking, East Grinstead, Horsham, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill.

Developing an AEZ (Airport Economic Zone) would allow the airport and surrounding regions to attract investment. Research by Gatwick Airport supports this as the development of AEZs elsewhere has encouraged the government to make investments in infrastructure around airports.

An inaugural Regional Economic Summit is taking place at Gatwick on 3 November for stakeholders to discuss the form of a future Gatwick AEZ.

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