‘Crucial’ or a ‘blight’? Gatwick Airport’s master plan for expansion divides Surrey

January 11, 2019
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Is it crucial to our economic prosperity, or a threat to our basic quality of life?

Plans to expand Gatwick Airport have long created bitter divides in our community and its latest grand vision, revealed in a draft master plan in October, is no different.

The plan details a three-pronged strategy to increase flights, and go from one to two runways with potential for a third in future. It plans to bring the emergency runway into regular use – as reported first by Surrey Live a year ago – and use more advanced technology, while not abandoning plans for brand new runway.

The number of passengers could rise from 47 million per year to 70 million by 2032, if the standby runway is brought into use.

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Residents’ last chance to have their say on the key document was on Thursday (January 10) and after the five-week consultation, Surrey remains split on the merits of expansion.

This week Horley District Chamber of Commerce and Surrey Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) joined 27 other business groups from across Surrey, Sussex, Kent and London to rally behind the airport, saying the plans “will play a crucial role in allowing our businesses, our employees and our region to continue to prosper”.

The groups, which the airport says together represent 25,000 businesses, wrote an open letter to airport chief Stewart Wingate.

Gatwick’s main runway, on the right, runs parallel to the emergency runway
(Image: Grant Melton)

It states: “Gatwick is a linchpin of the regional economy and a significant national asset, contributing over £5bn to UK GDP, delivering 24,000 jobs at the airport and supporting a further 85,000 jobs across the UK.

“As the UK heads into a new chapter, Gatwick will have a vital role to play in fuelling trade, tourism and commerce, and providing links to global markets. When Gatwick thrives and grows, so too does the national and regional economy, so the airport’s growth ambitions deserve our full support.”

Mr Wingate said the letter from business groups was a “powerful” vote of confidence.

However, Sally Pavey, chair of the Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE), said the airport, and the businesses which support its growth, had not considered the huge ramifications of expansion on the infrastructure needed to support it.

“Any business has to be sustainable,” she said. “What is not sustainable is allowing Gatwick to become a three-runway airport with no guaranteed funding for infrastructure.”

She labelled it “expansion by the back door” after Gatwick lost out to Heathrow when the government recommended the west London airport as the preferred option for expansion.

CAGNE chair Sally Pavey
(Image: Grant Melton)

While businesses have championed expansion, a number of councils and MPs are firmly against the airport’s expansion.

Charles Yarwood, deputy Leader of Mole Valley District Council, said the authority would “strongly oppose the use of the emergency runway as a second runway, in whatever guise it may be presented”.

He added: “We have opposed past proposals due to the severe impact another runway would have on the environment and quality of life in the southern part of Mole Valley. It is hard to imagine that any new options will come forward that would lead MVDC to a different conclusion.”

Four MPs oppose expansion

Meanwhile Reigate MP Crispin Blunt has penned a joint letter with three other MPs in response to the draft master plan, saying they cannot support it.

Co-signed by Mole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford, Sevenoaks MP Tom Tugendhat and Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames, the five-page letter outlines in detail their concerns.

Mr Blunt said: “Whilst there is no doubt that Gatwick benefits the local community in a variety of ways, even at today’s capacity a large number of concerns affecting residents all around the airport’s operating area already exist. These are not going to go away with the current proposals, they are set to get worse.

Reigate MP Crispin Blunt

“The draft plan plainly fails to address how additional passengers will affect the already crowded London to Brighton railway corridor and the A23/M23, and offers no assurances that Gatwick will not seek to become a three runway airport after securing permission to use the existing standby-runway.”

Gatwick’s response

A Gatwick spokesman said, in response to the MPs’ letter: “Local economic prosperity cannot be taken for granted and this response is disappointing as it does not fully recognise the economic boost our plans would deliver for future generations, including thousands of jobs, new global connections and opportunities for local businesses.”

The spokesman claimed that the “overwhelming majority of local residents surveyed” supported the growth plans, along with the 25,000 businesses represented in the open letter to Stewart Wingate.

He said all responses would be considered before the final master plan is published later this year.

Gatwick’s proposed expansion could see passenger numbers reach 70 million per year by 2032
(Image: PA)

Converting the emergency runway to a second runway

The emergency runway lies parallel to the main runway, just 198m to the north. Bringing it into regular use could allow up to 15 aircraft to take off per hour. It would mean, on top of expanding the main runway’s capacity, an extra 12 million passengers could use the airport each year by 2027, with 60,000 extra landings and take-offs. However, it could also cause a 19 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

If the plan goes forward, and receives planning consent, it could be operational by the mid-2020s.

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/crucial-blight-gatwick-airports-master-15642443


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