Businesses question balance of Airports Commission meeting

JPCT 131114 S14510185x  Arora Hotel, Southgate Avenue, Crawley. Sally Pavey, Brendan Sewill and others at the meeting in front of Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies  taking evidence concerning Gatwick Airports proposal to build a new runway. -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141216-112554001
JPCT 131114 S14510185x Arora Hotel, Southgate Avenue, Crawley. Sally Pavey, Brendan Sewill and others at the meeting in front of Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies taking evidence concerning Gatwick Airports proposal to build a new runway. -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141216-112554001

Business leaders threw their weight behind proposals for a second runway at Gatwick Airport citing the economic benefits it would bring to the next generation and beyond.

Sir Howard Davies, chair of the Airports Commission, led a meeting at the Arora Hotel, Southgate Avenue, on Tuesday (December 16) at which he heard evidence from parties for and against expansion.

The meeting heard from anti-expansion groups in the morning before turning the floor over to the business world in the afternoon.

Responding to claims from some that expansion would leave future generations with a legacy of concrete, noise and health problems, Christina Eubank, of the Alliance of Chambers in East Sussex (ACES) called for the other side of the coin to be considered.

She said: “There’s been a lot of talk about the future for our children.

“I’d like to ask the meeting to think about the young people who have been hardest hit by the recession.

“If you can support Gatwick Airport to grow, the chances of all of our children finding careers is that much better.

“This is a one-time opportunity and we need to grab it with both hands.”

Rosemary French OBE spoke on behalf of Gatwick Diamond Business in place of chief executive Jeremy Taylor, who was called away to a family matter.

Speaking for 19 organisations, including the area’s chambers of commerce, she said: “There is no question that the second runway will bring an increase in employment levels, particularly as Gatwick has a real impact on the local economy – 43 per cent of Gatwick’s operational spend is with local suppliers.”

The issue of employment had been raised earlier in the meeting with some questioning how thousands of new jobs could be filled in an area with such low unemployment levels.

Ms French said: “There is understandably some concern how these jobs will be filled.

“We have already seen the plans to develop public transport and the road infrastructure around Gatwick, which will allow other areas to rightly benefit.

“We can see employment opening up for those who live in real disadvantaged areas along the coast and into London.

“And while those employees are working here they will in turn spend money in the local area.”

Ms French was one of several business representatives who felt the meeting had been unbalanced in favour of the anti-expansion groups.

In a letter to the Observer, she said: “Out of 130 minutes of speeches, only 10 minutes was given to a business organisation to give reasons to support the runway.

“Ten minutes is not enough to adequately reflect the community of 45,000 businesses in the Gatwick Diamond, the largest majority of whom support a second runway judging by many surveys over the past year.”

Sir Howard defended the balance of the meeting and added: “For us these meetings are not just useful, they are essential.

“Unless we hear the points people feel most strongly about, we won’t make a good decision.”