Commission hears Gatwick concerns

Gatwick Airport, aerial view of new passenger bridge at Pier 6 and North Terminal Apron including runways, June 2005, Image ref CGA00963, A.C ENGSNL00120111121155645
Gatwick Airport, aerial view of new passenger bridge at Pier 6 and North Terminal Apron including runways, June 2005, Image ref CGA00963, A.C ENGSNL00120111121155645

Concerns about noise, the environment and pressures on the area’s infrastructure should Gatwick be expanded have been raised with the Airports Commission.

Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies chaired a meeting at the Arora Hotel, in Southgate Avenue, on Tuesday (December 16) where he heard from residents, politicians and community groups.

Also at the meeting was Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive officer, who was bombarded with questions and accusations from the floor about the airport’s proposal for a second runway.

Crawley MP Henry Smith reeled off a list of questions for Mr Wingate and asked him to explain how the area’s infrastructure would cope with the increase in population the airport would bring.

Mr Smith focussed particularly on the pressure such an increase would have on class sizes and GP services.

While acknowledging the positive aspects of Crawley being an airport town, he warned expansion would be “a fundamental change and impact on the community of Crawley”.

Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, took the concerns one step further, stating it was “highly questionable” whether the funding for the Gatwick proposal would be forthcoming.

Mr Blunt also asked how Gatwick planned to fill the thousands of jobs expansion would bring when the local unemployment rates were so low.

Responding to Mr Blunt, Mr Wingate pointed out jobs growth at the airport would happen over a long period of time. He added: “We’re not overnight going to simply create 22,000 new jobs. This will be a more gradual process over several decades.”

Mr Wingate also confirmed the building of a third terminal at Gatwick had been moved into the first phase of development.

The submission made to the Airports Commission in May had the terminal pencilled in for the second phase.

Among concerns raised from the floor was the noise impact for Crawley’s new neighbourhood, Forge Wood, which the meeting was told did not appear on any of the maps submitted to the commission.

Paul Garber, of Capel Parish Council, told the meeting two-thirds of the new homes at Forge Wood would be affected by noise.

He pointed out the noise protection area on the plans included noise bunds for Manor Royal but nothing for the area in which Forge Wood would be built.

Brendon Sewill, of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, asked Mr Wingate how much money had been spent on Gatwick’s advertising campaign.

The figure was £1.75million but Sir Howard assured the meeting the money spent on the campaign would have no influence on the outcome.

Mr Sewill told Sir Howard: “The reason we are so upset is we think that putting an airport bigger than Heathrow down here would totally alter the character of this area for ever.”

The meeting was still in progress when the Observer went to press.