LETTER: Dire prospects of airport expansion

Your views.
Your views.

I have just seen a couple of pamphlets regarding airport expansion.

One published by the Aviation Environment Federation casts great doubt over the need for South-East airport expansion. The second, published by GACC is closer to home and examines the case for a second runway at Gatwick. Both pamphlets have been supplied to every MP.

The second pamphlet, entitled “Gatwick Grounded – why a second runway will never fly”, is especially impressive. Although it comprehensively demolishes the argument for a second runway, it does not make clear the potential for destroying local high quality jobs. It predicts job creation, but since there is little unemployment locally identifies that the vacancies could only be filled by mass-commutes or by building a town larger than today’s Crawley.

Anyone using Gatwick Airport today will see many of the jobs are filled by immigrants. Last week, my wife (an immigrant herself) and I used Gatwick to attend an overseas family event. Check-in was by a helpful Spanish girl, currency exchange was by a pleasant girl from Hungary and on air-side practically all of the catering staff were from other counties. I welcome immigrants but, the staffing demonstrates that Crawley cannot supply all the labour the airport requires even today, so, the “Gatwick Grounded” pamphlet is right. An expanded airport would require massive commuting, massive house-building or both. However, even this does not predicate the inevitable negative effects on local jobs because of the quality and financial productivity of such airport jobs.

The UK has a problem with too many productivity low pay jobs. Some of this is because we have lost much high-tech manufacturing. Many jobs at LGW are in retail, catering, baggage handling, security and quasi-clerical work. Jobs of this nature can reduce the number of people on the dole but they do not yield high revenue or foreign exchange. These are not the high-pay high-tech value-adding, foreign-currency-earning jobs which the UK needs to earn its way in the world. Neither will the pay levels yield the tax revenues the country needs to reduce the National budget deficit. 21st century high quality jobs result from high-tech, high skilled enterprises such as chip design, pharmaceuticals, electronics, robotics and software development. Those who have worked in such enterprises know from experience that high–tech/high-skill businesses are very fussy over where they locate because they must attract the best people to survive. They will find a crowded dusty Crawley adjacent to a noisy polluting airport very unattractive. Some will move from Crawley because the airport’s space demands will force them out and they will not come back. Some will relocate.

Consequently, Crawley would find itself with a surplus of semi-skilled jobs and a shortage of high-skilled-high-paying jobs. It would become also become ‘one-horse town’ too reliant on one business nexus. Thus it will be as vulnerable as the declining conurbations over-reliant on the the early 20th century businesses such as Ocean Liners, steelworks and mines. People of high ability, ambition and drive would be tempted to leave.

This is a dire prospect

David Ashton,

Pound Hill

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