Nik Butler: Was event a consultation or merely a PR exercise?

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An unexpected day out and a chance to bump into characters old and new; would not be how I might present the Gatwick Second Runway event at the Drill Hall last Saturday.

The rather evocative, if frankly underwhelming, public relations event drew a reasonable crowd and I was delighted to see that the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) made their presence known in stickers, flyers, banners, and after some discussion some well made points.

Now there are those who might correct me that the event was a consultation exercise and not a public relations event but if this were the case then why did I feel that I had nothing more than bullet points and executive summaries? Nothing of substance to inform my views. Certainly the plans were informative. The runway in question looks to replace quite a large part of the A23 which runs through Crawleys industrial west side. It appears that a larger part of this expansion will remove industrial units and business parks around on the edges of the Manor Royal estate and, wait a moment! Was there not some new business park being suggested in a recent controversial consultation?

The phrase ‘stitch up’ springs to mind but of course no one would ever be able to draw such conclusions from the past and present consultation questions over Horsham today.

Meanwhile the protests delivered by GACC needed better questions asked. For example why state that there is no need for more jobs? More accurately the statements have been poorly delivered. The issue is that the jobs created will not be of a high net worth value which would help to pay mortgages; though of course it might improve landlords’ pockets by way of rent.

Concerns over pollution from more aircraft are again misunderstood; their view was not that aircraft are the source of pollution. One plane with two jet engines pulling 800 people and several tonnes of cargo is far more efficient and less polluting than 800 cars with 800 engines pulling 800 people; and this is where they are concerned about pollution. It is the extra capacity in road haulage which will impact the area.

My own observations are that there is a wider amount of support for a second runway than voiced against it. However we must not discount the views of GACC in their concerns over the delivery and future impact of air travel.