LETTER: Gatwick’s importance to local economy

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We continually see single issue pressure groups issuing dire warnings in the press and elsewhere, in order to promote their very restricted view.

One of these is the Gatwick Airport Conservation Campaign’s recent dramatic assertion that a second runway will cause huge problems to local housing; major loss of value; inability to sell, move or downsize etc, etc.

Patent nonsense of course. If Gatwick do build a second runway, it will be only a couple of hundred yards away from the existing one and have marginal effect on noise paths and housing. In fact it may offer considerable environmental improvements, especially in the reduction in current holding times both in the air and on ground.

I think we need to remember the enormous importance of Gatwick to the local economy. I cannot imagine what the area would be like if it was downgraded or even closed. It offers tens of thousands jobs, both directly and indirectly, and without it, Crawley, Horsham and the surrounds would become ghost towns.

But, let’s have a look at the group that make these dire pronouncements. GACC is in reality a one man band. Set up in the 1960s by Brendan Sewill, it has continually tried to block any changes to the airport from the small runway extension, to the North Terminal and beyond. It continually issues papers about the dire effects of changes to Gatwick; all written by Mr Sewill and all based on very selective evidence. It is no coincidence that he lives very close to the airport’s flight path.

It claims to have nearly one hundred local councils amongst its members and uses this to promote influence way beyond its actual status. In fact, of the 40 major local councils I have asked, all but two deny any association with the group. Actually no public body should belong to any such an organisation, as it would affect their impartiality in decision making.

So, ignore these fatuous warnings, as it is scaremongering at its worst. Remember Horsham is in a dynamic growth area and trust to your own judgement, rather than any pressure group out to prove its own self-importance.

However, do not think I am against local people themselves getting involved in making airports, and others, more accountable. It is vital, as these agencies are commercial and far from perfect. They need to be subject to local control. But do it yourself and do not allow these unaccountable pressure groups to do it for you.

PETER BURGESS

(Con) Horsham district councillor for Holbrook West, North Street, Horsham