The ongoing debate over airport expansion in the South East took a new turn yesterday when Gatwick declared its intention to push for the construction of a second runway.

The airport said a second runway would be ‘affordable and practical’, allowing for greater competition with Heathrow, and detailed plans for government approval will be presented to the Davies Commission.

Gatwick’s chief executive Stewart Wingate believes a second runway is the best answer to the calls for greater capacity in the South East of England.

Under Gatwick’s proposal, expansion at the airport would also see the construction of a third terminal and would increase capacity to 70m passengers a year.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson – the principal champion of an airport in the Thames Estuary – reacted by saying that there is ‘no point’ in ‘scattering new runways randomly around the South East’ and reiterated calls for a hub airport.

The Times reported Wingate’s argument that increased noise levels from the £5bn project would affect only 3,000 people, compared to the 250,000 he claimed would be affected by expansion of Heathrow.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has reportedly told David Cameron of the possibility of him taking legal action against the government to accelerate a review into airport expansion.

The Mayor believes the Davies Commission should report next year, while a Downing Street source said that there will be an interim report by the end of next year.