A former council boss has been appointed the next chair of an independent advisory group to Gatwick Airport.
Tom Crowley, who retired as chief executive of Horsham District Council earlier this year, will head up the Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (GATCOM).
He will replace John Godfrey, who will leave his role in December 2018 after announcing his retirement after eleven years in post.
GATCOM, which includes representatives from a wide range of interests, acts as a critical friend to ensure the success of the airport as well as considering the impact it has on its surrounding communities and the environment.
Mr Crowley said: “I am delighted to have been selected for this important position. Having lived and worked locally for almost forty years I am acutely aware of the economic benefits that Gatwick brings but I also appreciate that the airport’s development and operation generates significant environmental impacts.
“GATCOM plays a vital role in representing the interests of those who benefit from and are affected by the airport and it provides an effective forum to promote constructive dialogue with Gatwick’s senior managers.”
Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “I congratulate and look forward to working closely with Tom in his new role as chair. This post is fundamental to the strength of GATCOM and the committee plays a key role advising me and my senior team about issues of concern to our local communities or that impact the local environment.
“I would also like to express my personal gratitude to Dr John Godfrey for dedicating over a decade to the role. I very much value his contribution to GATCOM and his achievements during his tenure have been considerable and have helped shape the direction the airport.”
Dr Godfrey, who chaired GATCOM during the airport’s sale by BAA to Global Infrastructure Partners in 2009, added: “I join Stewart in congratulating Tom on his appointment and wish him well in his new role. GATCOM acts as a bridge between the airport management and all the various agencies and interests which make up the wider community which the airport serves. Tom’s background and experience equip him to make a major contribution to the important work of the UK’s leading airport consultative committee.”
Mr Crowley will take up the role in January 2019, for a minimum period of four years. He is also currently chair of Empty Homes, a national research and campaigning charity, and a governor of the Chichester College Group.
Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, which represents areas negatively affected by aircraft noise, expressed disappointment at the announcement as it says it would have liked to have seen a candidate with environmental credentials.
A spokesman said: “We sincerely hope that Mr Crowley will take the time to meet with the rising number of concerned residents as soon as possible to ensure he understands the considerable impact the growth of Gatwick, in passenger numbers and movements of aircraft, is having on the rural areas of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.”
Earlier this month Liz Kitchen, a Horsham district councillor and former leader of the authority, defended GATCOM against recent criticism.
She said: “There have been comments that GATCOM is a bit spineless because it is made up too much of people working at the airport and not so much local people who are worried about airport noise.
“That’s not, strictly speaking, true because there are many elected members on there from Surrey, West Sussex and East Sussex and two or three parish councils.”
She added: “Over the years GATCOM has done a very good job of helping local residents to understand the industry and helping the industry to understand the local residents.”