The UK’s Gatwick Airport has alleged that Heathrow has created a fake community support campaign to back its bid to build a third runway.

Gatwick’s chairman Sir Roy McNulty has written an open letter to chair of the Airports Commission Sir Howard Davies saying that Heathrow’s Back Heathrow ‘wears the mask of a community group when they are simply a campaign arm of Heathrow, set up and funded by the airport’.

Davies wrote in the letter: "A cursory glance at Back Heathrow’s recent surveys of local opinion show how they have been able to generate support essentially by scaremongering and, for example, setting up the entirely false choice between expansion and closure.

"Their 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.

"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."

"Clearly, if Gatwick expands, Heathrow would remain at least the same size as it is today and continue to thrive as part of a competitive network of London airports. I believe that the Commission, and everybody else, should view the statements and outputs from the Back Heathrow campaign with strong scepticism."

The campaign was launched in September 2014 and claimed to bring together people who favoured Heathrow expansion to declare their support.

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‘Back Heathrow’ claims to have thousands of members and the campaign had also announced that it had a backing from the airport during its launch.

The Guardian quoted a Heathrow spokesperson as saying: "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.

"The campaign itself has over 50,000 members 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."

The Airport Commission will hold its second and final public hearing later this month, when it will give its final recommendation for one new runway to be constructed either at Heathrow or Gatwick Airport, following the 2015 general election.

Image: An aerial view of the single runway at Gatwick Airport. Photo: courtesy of Gatwick Airport.