The county council’s leader has been challenged on her ‘obligation’ to promote the authority’s policy of opposition to a second runway at Gatwick.
West Sussex County Council voted by a majority of 37 to 26 to oppose expansion at the airport in January 2015, but campaigners have criticised Louise Goldsmith for a lack of public response over both revisions to flight paths and the ‘increased threat’ of another runway at Gatwick.
But Mrs Goldsmith said they were planning for whatever decision was made by the Government on a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick and the council was aware of concerns expressed by residents.
In its letter to Mrs Goldsmith, Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) said that following WSCC’s decision on a second runway Mrs Goldsmith was ‘obliged to actively promote and further at all times’ the policy.
Sally Pavey, chair of CAGNE, said: “Your lack of action in the public domain, or even replying to the issues residents are raising now concerning concentrated flight paths and the returned threat of a second runway is noticeable.”
The letter also said the group was aware that Mrs Goldsmith’s personal view was that Gatwick should be expanded, and felt that her membership of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, as a representative of the county council, was an ‘apparent conflict of interest’.
But Mrs Goldsmith said county councillors were well aware of concerns that residents have raised about the potential implications of another runway at Gatwick and what it might mean for West Sussex, and these had formed a key part of their debate last year.
She said: “The decision whether to have a second runway at Gatwick Airport is not West Sussex County Council’s to make. It is out of our hands. Even so, we are planning now for whatever the decision is.
“The county council, in line with its strategic role and responsibilities, is working with others on potential future infrastructure needs. The work considers the potential impact of a second runway.
“If there is a second runway at Gatwick Airport, we need to consider how best to mitigate the effects on local communities and the environment. This includes the effects on air quality and how that might affect people.
“We have to consider how to provide the infrastructure and services needed for more jobs, housing, business opportunities, homes, traffic and transport.
“If there is no second runway, flight and passenger numbers are still predicted to rise in coming years. Gatwick Airport has potential to maximise its current configuration - one runway and two terminals. This will affect the economy of our county and the communities within it.
“Investment in the infrastructure around the airport is vital for achieving this.
“We will continue working with Gatwick Airport Limited, local partners, the Government and its agencies to plan for the growth of the airport, whether there is a second runway or not.
“Reflecting the concerns of local communities, the county council has participated in the recent independent reviews of airspace and arrivals.
“Those reviews are yet to report. The county council has pressed for the review of arrivals to be expanded so that the concerns of a wider community can be considered.”
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