Francis Maude: Gatwick and housing fill my postbag

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude
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The majority of my postbag continues to consist of letters about Gatwick Airport, and I was encouraged to see the Airports Commission upload at the end of December a detailed and full report of the second session at Crawley, this time attended by members of the public and the leadership team at the airport as well as the commissioners.

You can find it at www.gov.uk/file/389989/gatwick_area_transcript.pdf

It’s quite a long document but gives a very good flavour of the meeting. As most of you will already know, this consultation phase will end on 3rd February, and there are several ways in which individuals and groups can respond. These can be found on the Airports Commission website or you can write to Airports Commission Consultation, Freepost RTKX-USUC-CXAS, PO Box 1492, Woking, GU22 2QR.

Meanwhile there has been a further opportunity for local residents to voice their concerns about the intensifying of flight paths, which was trialled last year and still continues on most of the previously more dispersed Noise Preferential Routes. Many of you have copied me in on your responses, which I appreciate, and I am still building an address list of constituents who are very distressed about this issue. I continue to maintain that more accurate on-board navigation systems can be used effectively to disperse as well as to concentrate, and that it is only fair to do this. Recent meetings with Gatwick management have been encouraging on this issue.

I have also been asked recently for my opinion on two other matters: the effects of not having a local plan in place, and the continuing battle over the North of Horsham development and how it is being reported in the press.

I would say this: our local councillors have some extremely difficult decisions to make, many of which will upset as many people as they please. Being in government can often be like that: you make tough choices where those who oppose are vigorously vocal, and those who benefit tend to remain more reticent. Councillors should be applauded for being prepared to be accountable for these choices, which are never made lightly. The absence of an agreed local plan seems to allow on planning appeals free play to the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which has existed since the first Town and Country Planning Act in 1948. The sooner the local plan can be agreed the sooner communities will win local control of their own neighbourhood through a neighbourhood plan prepared and owned by the community itself.

I hope that this debate can be conducted in a mature way, without personalities getting in the way of the important issues. In public life we should want to think the best of each other, not the worst.