I am delighted that the debate as to whether there should be a second runway at Gatwick, following the submission by Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) to expand its capacity, has been well aired in the media.
However the claim has come from certain quarters that West Sussex County Council rushed into supporting a second runway.
It is true that our council meeting at which the council endorsed the idea of a second runway took place a few days before the announcement by Gatwick.
However its proposal for a second runway had been known for some weeks. It would have been wrong to wait until our next meeting in October to discuss such an important issue.
Our position has always been that, when the time came, we would make a decision based on balancing the needs of the economy and those of communities and the environment.
We agreed ‘in principle’ to support the expansion plan. This does not mean unequivocal support for anything Gatwick Airport Limited wants to do.
We will work very hard to champion the best interests of the county, fighting for the best possible road and rail links and ensuring that environmental concerns are addressed.
Our ‘in principle’ support is based on our firm belief that the proposals will bring long term sustainable economic growth to all parts of the county.
Gatwick needs to grow because of the economic benefits it will bring to the county, and to ensure a thriving future for businesses and residents.
We are aware of the problems that the local economy could face if the airport goes into decline.
It has been claimed that we have ripped up the agreement that prevents a second runway before 2019, and made a U-turn. That is simply not the case. The agreement remains in force and does not say that a second runway can never be built at Gatwick.
Eventually the Government, not the county council, will decide if Gatwick will be allowed to expand or not.
If the Gatwick option is eventually chosen for further consideration, we will take every opportunity to be at the forefront of that debate – an easier position to take if we have been involved from the very start.
In the meantime, can I remind residents that we have set up a dedicated email address firstname.lastname@example.org for comments or questions.
They will all be welcomed, read, considered and addressed.
(Con, Chichester West) Leader,
West Sussex County Council, County Hall, Chichester