Proposed new 3,000 airport car park is on land ‘safeguarded for second Gatwick runway’

Site of the planned airport parking centre off the A23 at Lowfield Heath SUS-160410-141101001
Site of the planned airport parking centre off the A23 at Lowfield Heath SUS-160410-141101001

Plans to provide a 3,000-space airport car park on a countryside site near Gatwick could be thwarted - because the land has been earmarked for building a second runway.

Airport parking firm Holiday Extras is seeking planning permission to create the parking spaces, along with reception facilities, toilets, perimeter fencing, lighting and CCTV cameras on land adjoining Lowfield Heath Service Station off the A23.

The proposals - for a temporary period of five years - are to be considered by Crawley Borough Council’s planning committee next week, but planning officers are recommending that councillors should refuse the scheme.

They say that the site is within an area of land safeguarded for a potential second runway and that the parking proposals “would compromise its delivery” even with a five-year temporary limit.

They also maintain that it would amount to a large-scale commercial development that would conflict with both local and national policy, and would harm the character of a buffer zone between Gatwick and Crawley.

In a report to be put before members of the planning committee on Monday, officials also say: “The scale of introducing nearly 5ha of hardstanding and associated development and have up to 3,000 cars parked in what is currently open countryside would not respect the area’s unique character or its role separating Crawley from Gatwick Airport and providing the built up parts of the town with a coherent countryside setting.”

Planning officers also say there is no current need for the additional parking spaces.

However, proposals for the 3,000 car site were first revealed in July by parking firm Airparks after the discovery of more than 1,000 holidaymakers’ cars left in a boggy field.

The firm maintains that the police discovery of the cars - left in the field by a rogue parking company - was ‘not an isolated incident’ and was a result of a shortage of spaces to meet Gatwick’s growing number of customers.

Support for the additional parking has also been given by the Gatwick Diamond Business group who say that “there is an unserved demand for 9,000 airport parking spaces” which is “currently met by unathorised operators using insecure sites, local streets or other facilities.”