LETTER: Runway is recipe for regional chaos

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In its recent ‘Five Guarantees to the UK’ advertising campaign run in this newspaper, we believe that Gatwick fails to meet two out of three of its obligations to your readers.

In consumer advertising, we believe that there are three principal obligations under generally accepted codes of practice with regard to ‘Guarantees’. In brief, they are:

1. That the content is truthful and does not deliberately mislead.

2. That the terms and conditions of the ‘Guarantee’ are set out and/or the reader is advised where they can be found in full.

3. That the ‘compensation’ in the event of the provider not meeting the ‘Guarantee’ is made clear e.g., a full refund, a replacement product etc.

If the text in Gatwick’s advertisement in your paper is not untruthful, we find it misleading.

In Guarantee No 1, it talks of the ‘privately funded runway’… ‘with no need for billions of pounds of public subsidy’. Maybe they will pay for the ‘runway’, but what about the currently inadequate roads and the railway line that will need to handle the 54 million extra passengers a year? And the schools places, hospitals and clinics that are also inadequate now but will be needed for the 90,000-plus imported workers who will come to live here (because there is little local unemployment).

We, the tax payer WILL pay for all of these. And where will the workers live? Who will pay for their houses?

We don’t have enough now with just one airport, never mind two. We will also pay for these.

Each of the five ‘guarantees’, we believe, is expressed in similarly ‘weasel-like words’ so that readers cannot, or will not, understand the real, and very complex, position. We certainly don’t.

Guarantee No2 – Fair to passengers and airlines – its largest customer, easyjet, doesn’t seem to agree, and both easyjet and BA oppose the Gatwick option.

Guarantee No 3 – Fair to Government - Gatwick ‘guarantees’ to bear the long-term risks of the expansion programme related to traffic level... seem totally unrealistic. The problem here is that the current, NY-based and mainly foreign owners of Gatwick intend to sell the airport if they get the new runway so they won’t be around to face the music.

Guarantee No 4 - Fair to local people – this is an insult. That is why 12 local authorities and the eight local MPs surrounding Gatwick who represent real people, oppose the Gatwick option.

Very many thousands of local people, in addition to the few directly under the current, and five new, flight paths, will have their lives disturbed when flights are DOUBLED to one every 60 seconds, and concentrated into narrow ‘Bee lines’.

Guarantee No 5 – Fair to the environment – this is another insult to our intelligence. The current pollution, health and noise issues, and the disruption to rural areas, their habitat and their residents, will all be more than DOUBLED when flights increase from 250,000 to 560,000 per year.

And the slogan, ‘London Gatwick, Obviously’ is the insult of insults. If there is one over-arching argument why the second airport should not be built at Gatwick, it is because it just does not ‘fit’ in any shape or form.

It is the least ‘obvious’ of the three options from whatever angle you look: space, access, environment, roads, traffic, schools, housing, labour force. It is a recipe for regional and financial chaos for our children and their children.

But, in the awful event that Gatwick were to be awarded the second airport, and if it were to fail to deliver on its ‘Five Guarantees’ (which we believe it must), where does Gatwick spell out the compensation?

And why has Gatwick not stated this in your newspaper nor give us the reference to it, as it is obliged to do under British advertising codes of practice?

So much for building trust with local communities - London Gatwick. Obviously NOT.

MARTIN SPURRIER

Coneyhurst Concern Group, Coneyhurst, Billingshurst