Proposals for a second runway at Gatwick Airport could lead to a huge amount of housing built across swathes of the Horsham district, creating a ‘mega-city’, according to one county councillor.
During last week’s West Sussex County Council debate on a motion to support ‘in principle’ a second runway at Gatwick Bill Acraman (Con, Worth Forest) predicted a mega city in the north of Sussex equal to the size of Brighton, stretching across the north of the Horsham district, sprawling from Broadfield in Crawley to Forest Row.
He said that the A264 and A272 would probably need to be brought up to motorway standard, and asked whether the infrastructure improvements needed would ‘magically appear’.
“You can tear up the Neighbourhood Plans,” Mr Acraman said.
The county council approved the motion by 42 votes to 10 with 12 abstaining last Friday, days before Gatwick made its submission to the Airports Commission public on Tuesday.
During the same debate Morwen Millson (LDem, Horsham Riverside) added: “It’s basically if we have a new runway at Heathrow and we do not have one at Gatwick I think the economy of this county will be seriously threatened.”
She thought that under that scenario the area would lose most of its high-quality jobs.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport, said: “London is the best connected city in the world today because the UK’s aviation industry is one of the most competitive and innovative.
“Our proposal to the Airports Commission builds on this foundation and would ensure that the UK has an airports policy which offers the additional capacity that Britain needs, improves the resilience of the airports system and, above all, can be delivered.
“Our evidence shows clearly that an additional runway at Gatwick would best serve the needs of all passengers, and give certainty to airlines, communities and businesses. It would deliver the connectivity the UK needs with lower environmental impacts, whilst spreading the economic benefits.
“A two-runway Gatwick, as part of a constellation of three major airports surrounding London, will also provide flexibility in an industry where the only constant is change.”
The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), which is campaigning against the environmental impact of a second runway, remains firmly opposed to Gatwick’s plans.
Brendon Sewill, chairman of GACC, said: “When people begin to realise what is likely to hit them, there will be a tidal wave of public resistance.”
Reacting to Gatwick’s submission Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “The county council has voted to support expansion of Gatwick, in principle, because of the huge potential economic benefits for West Sussex.
“However, we want to work with Gatwick, residents and partners to ensure that any development will take into account the environmental concerns that people rightly have, and include all of the essential infrastructure that a development of this scale would require. We are pleased that Gatwick has agreed to work with us on these issues.”
Francis Maude, Conservative MP for Horsham, said: “I have always supported the expansion of Gatwick as a single runway airport, just like West Sussex County Council but not a second runway.
“So I’m surprised and disappointed at what seems to be a sudden volte-face by the county. Of course we’re right to be concerned for economic development and jobs; but local residents will need a lot of persuading that these benefits will not exert an unacceptable environmental price.”
Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid Sussex, told the House of Commons last week that the county council’s announcement would put further pressure on housing in Mid Sussex with an ‘almost unsupportable torrent of applications’.
Readers took to the County Times’ website to comment on latest proposals. CJ700 said: “I will never travel by aircraft again following this. Expansion is not always progress. This country is destroying any reason for people to want to visit the UK. So short sighted. I am not so sure I am proud to be British anymore.”
Others criticised the county council’s move to support a second runway. Ifield Chris added: “Personally i feel rather aghast that a councillor from far far away is calling for WSCC to support a planned second runway at Gatwick that will not affect him or his constituents one bit.
“I for one am against any expansion, the area around Ifield cannot support this additional noise, roads and disruption for many years. It’s not just a runway, Gatwick will need a new terminal, major roads will have to be re-routed, additional housing for workers, we cant cope with that at the moment.”