Questions over freeing up land south of Gatwick Airport for housing

Gatwick Airport wants to ‘have its cake and eat it’ over land being safeguarded for another runway, a council leader has said.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 3:34 pm
A plane taking off at Gatwick. Pic by Steve Robards

During a Mid Sussex District Council meeting, Jonathan Ash-Edwards was asked whether the land in Crawley would be used for housing if the airport’s emergency runway was brought into full-time use.

Because Crawley has so little land, it can’t meet the housing targets imposed by government, meaning neighbouring authorities such as Mid Sussex and Horsham have to ease the load. 

Ian Gibson (Ind, Crawley Down & Turners Hill) said freeing up the land south of the airport would allow Crawley Borough Council to ‘address their housing needs within their own boundaries and not push that down on to us’.

Mr Ash-Edwards said Mr Gibson made a good point ‘in the sense that Gatwick are wanting to have their cake and eat it’.

But the Gatwick Masterplan scuppers any such hopes.

It states: “While we are not actively pursuing an additional runway at Gatwick we believe it is in the national interest to continue with this strategy of land safeguarding.”

A spokesman for the airport said the land was safeguarded ‘as part of national policy, so its future status is something for the UK Government to determine’.

Crawley Borough Council has been asking questions about the need for continued safeguarding – and its emerging Local Plan seeks to remove land east of Balcombe Road to allocate as a strategic employment site.

In the meantime, a spokesman said the issue would be raised in the borough council’s response to the development consent order application for the emergency runway.

A public consultation into the use of the runway – known as the Northern Runway – ends in December and the district council intends to have its say.

Mr Ash-Edwards said the council had commissioned external advice to help inform its response and a workshop for councillors would be held in due course.

He added: “The implications and impacts of expansion will be very significant and wide-ranging – and I think it’s important that that isn’t under-estimated.

“To have a dual-runway airport just up the road will undoubtedly bring some opportunities for people in terms of jobs and economic impact but will have very considerable environmental and infrastructure impacts as well.

“I think it is right that those proposals are very fully scrutinised.

“While we are not the decision-maker as a council – none of the neighbouring councils are decision-makers – we do have a role in the development consent order process that Gatwick is now embarking on.

“I think it’s really important that we do our part and do everything we can to ensure those proposals are fully scrutinised, that the impacts are fully explored and understood and mitigations identified so they can be put before the decision-makers – the secretary of state – in due course.”