Gatwick consultation: MPs and Mid Sussex Councillors reject new runway plans

JPCT 190115 S15031218x protesters outside WSCC meeting on Gatwick Airport County Hall North. Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150119-121918001
JPCT 190115 S15031218x protesters outside WSCC meeting on Gatwick Airport County Hall North. Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150119-121918001

A consultation over the future of Gatwick Airport has now ended – with MPs and councillors speaking out against plans for a new runway.

After much debate, the finished reports will now be given to the Airports Commission, an independent body set up by the government to examine need for additional UK aviation capacity.

The Airports Commission is set to give a final recommendation to the government as to which option it believes should be taken forward later this year. A second runway at Gatwick Airport would be a ‘catastrophe for local communities’ – according to a group of MPs.

Gatwick Co-ordination Group

The Gatwick Co-ordination Group (GCG) has challenged proposals for Gatwick’s expansion plans in a report submitted to the Airports Commission.

The group is formed of six Gatwick area MPs, including MP for Mid Sussex Sir Nicholas Soames and MP for Arun and South Downs Nick Herbert.

Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, spoke out on behalf of the group.

“The Gatwick Coordination Group’s consultation response exposes the weakness of, but also the danger in, Gatwick Airport’s proposals,” he said.

“Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) mistakenly maintains that a second runway at Gatwick Airport is practically and politically the most easily delivered option.

“The Gatwick Coordination Group believes that this appraisal will help Sir Howard Davies find strongly against Gatwick’s speculative proposals when set alongside the Heathrow options.

“The final decision will be for the next government, but we hope the commission will share our view that on any measure, local or national, this is not a finely balanced argument.

“A recommendation and decision for a second runway at Gatwick would be a catastrophe for local communities and a disaster for the national interest.”

In autumn 2014, the Airports Commission short-listed plans for a second runway at Gatwick Airport and two plans for Heathrow Airport – an elongated second runway or the building of a third runway.

The MPs’ response to the Gatwick proposals has been supported by MP Francis Maude, who as a government minister was stopped from joining the group.

The report states six reasons why Gatwick’s proposals are not ‘resilient’, including: the lack of regional transport infrastructure, failure to identify how a work force will be found without ‘massive’ regional housing development, the impact of aircraft noise and questions over Gatwick’s ability to pay for the scheme.

MPs also questioned Gatwick’s ‘lack of transparency and accountability’ during the process and its ‘failure’ to engage with communities during the consultation.Mid Sussex District Council

Mid Sussex District Council

Councillors have branded Gatwick’s expansion plans a ‘flight of fancy’, voting overwhelmingly against the proposals for a second runway.

Mid Sussex District Council voted to oppose the plans at a meeting last Wednesday, with councillors voicing their concerns about the impact a ‘huge airport’ will have on infrastructure, unemployment and noise.

Councillor Garry Wall, leader of the council said: “Nearly half of the airport’s existing workforce lives within Mid Sussex, Crawley and Horsham.

“With Crawley struggling to find space for new houses, it is quite possible that the burden for new housing will fall primarily on Mid Sussex and Horsham. For Mid Sussex this could equate to an increase of 51 per cent in the amount of houses needed to be built in the area. This, together with concerns about the impact on our already inadequate infrastructure, has determined this council’s opposition to the proposal.”

He said the council was not ‘anti-growth’, arguing development of this scale would put an ‘unacceptable strain’ on roads and the already congested rail links.

A spokesman for Mid Sussex District said if the plans went ahead, Gatwick Airport will be 19 per cent bigger than Heathrow with double the number of flights which will mean three times as many people in Mid Sussex will be ‘detrimentally affected’ by aircraft noise.

Cllr Wall said: “The commission should be under no illusions’ about the devastating impact a huge airport at Gatwick could have on this beautiful, ecologically and historically rich area of the country.

“As a council, we are positive about sustainable economic growth but this must be balanced against the need to protect the environment and our residents’ quality of life.

“The plans for a second runway at Gatwick are a flight of fancy.”

The council is also concerned the development would jeopardise the district’s economic development and low levels of unemployment.

Cllr Wall said: “The jobs created by the airport expansion are anticipated to remain relatively low-skilled, which is of minimal benefit when you consider that 67 per cent of the Mid Sussex workforce is educated to A Level or above and certainly not enough to outweigh the devastating impacts of this proposal.”

The council has agreed a response outlining their argument against the proposal for the Airports Commission.

Campaigners: Gatwick has had a ‘woeful week’