The battle between Gatwick and Heathrow airports grew more intense on Tuesday with the unveiling of the latter's revised proposals for a third runway.
Heathrow Airport has submitted new plans for the runway that include a higher compensatory payout for those who would be affected by it. The owners of the 750 homes that would be demolished to make way for the runway would be offered 25% above market value for their properties, in addition to their legal fees, while surrounding residents would be given improved noise insulation, it said.
According to the report that was re-submitted to the Airports Commission following a number of revisions, £550m had been allocated for compensation and noise insulation, a significant increase on its previous proposals.
However, Gatwick has responded with strong fighting talk, saying 10m more passengers each year will be able to travel with a second runway at Gatwick than with a third runway at Heathrow. It also estimated a new runway at its airport would be delivered around five years earlier than its rival "at no additional cost or risk to the taxpayer".
Significantly, it said the noise would have an impact on 14,000 people if built at Gatwick, rather than 240,000 at Heathrow.
"As we reach this critical point in the aviation debate it is clear that the Airports Commission has a very real choice to make: expand Gatwick and create genuine competition in the market with lower fares for everyone, or move back to a London airport market dominated by a single player and saddle the next generation with higher air fares," Gatwick Chief Executive Officer Stewart Wingate said.
"The choice is an obvious one," he added.
However, Heathrow's argument is that as the only hub airport in the UK it needs better long-haul connections to meet the growing demand from Asia, North America and South America.
"Only Heathrow will connect the whole of the UK to growth," it says.
Heathrow, from which more than 69m people fly in and out of every year, said it would launch a consultation with the local community on the proposals this summer.
Colin Matthews, the airport's Chief Executive, said: "We are committed to treating those most affected by a third runway fairly. Since the previous runway plan was rejected in 2010 we have listened to ideas for how we could improve our proposals. People have told us that we should provide more generous compensation and go further in insulating homes against noise.
"We recognise that the expansion of Heathrow deserves an exceptional compensation scheme. That's why we're going further than statutory schemes or government guidance. People will receive fair compensation in the event that Heathrow expansion goes ahead."
The airport will now work with a panel of community representatives to determine how the fund should be distributed and will also work with local authorities as it develops more detailed plans.