Aerodrome safeguarding

To keep the operation of the UK's second busiest airport safe and secure, Gatwick is legally obliged to have an active policy of aerodrome safeguarding.

Aerodrome safeguarding is the process used to ensure the safety of aircraft while taking off and landing, or flying in the vicinity of aerodromes.

The process is managed by the airport's aerodrome safeguarding team who are responsible for making sure that no developments within the 15km safeguarding zone (30km for wind turbines) have an adverse effect on the airport's operation. 

Aerodrome Safeguarding is a legal requirement and is required under both ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) Regulations and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) Regulations.

ICAO logoEASA logo

Planning consultations

Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) is a statutory consultee through the Town and Country Planning process and is consulted by the local and county planning authorities about certain developments within the safeguarding consultation zones. The process is described further in DfT/ODPM Circular 01/2003 Safeguarding of aerodromes, technical sites and military explosives storage areas direction.

The airport receives around 290 consultations including pre-application enquiries per year. The developments range from domestic extensions and changes of use up to industrial developments, major residential development and renewable energy schemes. 

Gatwick lodges a consultation map with each planning authority within the 15km safeguarding zone.

Local planning authorities: 
Crawley Borough Council, Horsham District Council, West Sussex County Council, Tandridge District Council, Mole Valley District Council, Wealden District Council, Surrey County Council, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, East Sussex County Council, Mid Sussex District Council.

GAL also lodges a ‘wind turbine safeguarding map’ which covers an area out to 30km from the airport, within which we ask to see all applications involving wind turbines.

GAL welcomes pre application enquiries from developers and other third parties. On occasion Gatwick may request amendments to schemes to ensure that there will be no impact on aerodrome safety.

We will always look to work with both LPAs and developers to find solutions suitable to all parties where possible.

Checks made by airside operations

Obstacle Limitation Surfaces (OLS)

To ensure that no buildings or structures penetrate the Obstacle Limitation Surfaces (OLS) around the airport, as this may cause danger to aircraft either in the air or on the ground.  

Cranes and construction issues

Cranes have the potential to impact on radar and other aids to navigation and can also be a hazard due to their height. Therefore it is essential that developers apply to the Airside Operations Team at least 6-8 weeks before a crane is due on site to enable safety assessments to take place.

Other construction issues that need to be taken into account are:

  • Dust and smoke that could cause issues for aircraft
  • Temporary construction lighting which could dazzle pilots or could cause confusion
  • Storage of materials
  • Bird attractants such as standing water, putrescible waste and disturbance of soil that would uncover potential food sources

Technical safeguarding

Radar at GatwickProposed buildings and structures can impact on navigational aids utilised by the airport and to guide on route aircraft. Potential issues can include:

  • Signal reflection
  • Refraction
  • Shielding or interference
  • False plots and clutter on radar screens

The navigational equipment on the airfield is managed by ANS (Air Navigation Solutions) and the on route equipment including the secondary surveillance radar is managed by NERL (NATS En Route Ltd). Aerodrome safeguarding will consult both ANS and NERL to ensure that proposed development will not impact on navigational aids. 

Any potential impact on Instrument Flight Procedures (IFP’s) also needs to be assessed. 

Solar panels GatwickRenewable energy

  • Wind turbines: have the ability to impact on primary radar by causing ‘clutter’ and false aircraft tracks on the radar operator’s screen. Secondary radar can also be disrupted by wind turbines as they can cause misplaced aircraft returns on the operators screens. 
  • Solar installations: solar installations need to be carefully assessed as depending on their location and the size, have the potential to deflect radar and can cause glint and glare. In some circumstances we may request that a developer submits a solar hazard glint and glare assessment with their proposals.

Depending on their design the frameworks of the panels can also be utilised by birds for nesting, roosting and loafing and we may request suitable mitigation measures be incorporated into the design. 

Wildlife hazard assessment

Gulls at GatwickAircraft are vulnerable to wildlife strike, species such as deer, badger and foxes can cause safety concerns, however birds are the most problematic species in the UK as a whole.  It is estimated that damage to aircraft and flight delays resulting from wildlife strikes around the world cost more than 1bn Euros a year. 

GAL is required under EASA regulations to ‘... reduce the attractiveness of the area to birds/wildlife’ on and in the vicinity of the airport. Local planning authorities are required to consult Gatwick on proposed developments within a 13km circle of the airport that have the potential to increase the birdstrike risk, for example the creation or extension of: 

  • areas of water such as reservoirs, lakes, ponds and wetlands including Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)
  • sites being used for the handling, compaction, treatment and/or disposal of household and/or commercial wastes
  • nature reserves or bird sanctuaries
  • sewage disposal, treatment and outfalls
  • mineral extraction, quarrying and their restorations schemes.
  • large landscaping schemes
  • buildings with large areas or flat, shallow pitched and/or green roofs
  • large areas of ground re profiling works

Not all of the above will cause issues. It depends on the scale, design, proximity to the airport and known bird sites. All developments are considered on a case by case basis. 

Lighting schemes

At night and in periods of poor visibility during the day, pilots rely on a particular pattern of the aeronautical ground lighting, principally the approach and runway lights, to assist in aligning themselves with the runway to touch down at the correct point. Therefore other lights must not be displayed which would distract or confuse pilots by being mistaken for aeronautical ground lights. 

The approach and runway lights must be not be obscured in any way and there must not be a high level of background lighting which could diminish their effectiveness. 

Any proposed lighting schemes in the vicinity of the airport must have no light spill above the horizontal and no lighting that will dazzle or district pilots, such as laser lights or flashing lighting. 

Public safety zones (PSZ)

Public safety zones are areas at either end of the runway and development is restricted within these zone to minimise the risk of death or injury in the event of an aircraft accident on take-off or landing. 

Further details of these zones and what development may be permissible, depending on other safeguarding factors, can be found in DfT Circular 01/2010 Control of development in airport public Safety zones.

Building induced turbulence/wind shear and thermal uplift

Any building or structure close to the runways needs to be assessed to ensure that it will not create any building induced turbulence or wind shear that has the potential to affect aircraft on take-off or landing.

If a development is close to or under the approach and take off paths, there could be potential thermal uplift for example from vapour plumes from cooling towers. Under these circumstances the safeguarding team may require the developer to submit a technical study.

Contact us

If you'd like more information about different aspects of aerodrome safeguarding, we'd be happy to help you. Please contact us at:  


Airport Operators Association (AOA)

The AOA publish a series of advice notes with regard to aerodrome safeguarding, as follows:

  • Advice Note 1 – Aerodrome safeguarding an overview
  • Advice Note 2 – Lighting near aerodromes
  • Advice Note 3 – Wildlife hazards around aerodromes
  • Advice Note 4 – Cranes and other construction issues
  • Advice Note 5 – Renewable energy and impact on aviation

You can find these here on the AOA website

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

CAA publish a series of UK aviation guidance documents with regard to aerodrome safeguarding, as follows:  

  • CAP168: Licensing of aerodromes
  • CAP736: Lasers, searchlights and fireworks
  • CAP738: Safeguarding of aerodromes
  • CAP764: Wind turbines
  • CAP772: Wildlife hazard management at aerodromes
  • CAP785: Approval requirements for instrument flight procedures for use in UK airspace
  • CAP1096: Guidance to crane operators

These are available here on the CAA website   

Government circulars