West Sussex County Council has agreed its official response to a public consultation into options for additional airport capacity in the South East – taking into account the concerns raised by objectors to the Gatwick option.
At a specially convened full council meeting on Monday, January 19, the authority approved a 20 page document of improvements that it believes need to made before any proposal to expand Gatwick is submitted to government.
Protestors gathered outside the county councils Horsham offices prior to the meeting and sang a protest song about the proposed expansion at the airport.
The final decision about additional airport capacity will be made by the next government.
Pieter Montyn, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “The issue of a second runway at Gatwick is an extremely emotive subject and that played out at today’s meeting.
“It was only right that all members of West Sussex County Council were given the opportunity to debate and put forward their views, and those of their residents as well. That’s democracy.
“In terms of the response to the consultation, the Airports Commission at no point asked respondents whether or not they agree that an additional runway is needed. Nor does it ask us whether we have a preference as to where additional capacity should be provided.
“It asks us to comment on the methodology and evidence base of the Airports Commission’s initial assessments, and to put forward improvements that we believe should be made. Our response contains a raft of improvements that we believe need to be made by both Gatwick and the government.”
Following approval of the official response, West Sussex County Council held a vote to determine its position. It was agreed, via a majority vote, that the authority would now oppose expansion at the airport following the high level of opposition that has been raised locally over the environmental impact and infrastructure implications of a second runway at Gatwick.
However, unanimous support was given to the Council continuing to engage with the government, residents, businesses and Gatwick Airport Limited to ensure the county gets the best deal possible from whatever future decision is made by the government.
WSCC’s position opposing expansion does not form part of the Council’s response to the consultation.
The consultation response will now be sent to the Airports Commission for consideration.
The Airports Commission is expected to make a recommendation to the Government regarding airport expansion and capacity later this year.
Sally Pavey, Chair of Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE) said: “This is wonderful news, councillors have seen through the spin of Gatwick Airport and undertaken their own research to represent the county and its residents by voting against supporting a second runway at Gatwick.
“Gatwick can no longer use the WSCC support to illustrate that local communities support the expansion as they have been doing constantly which is excellent news. Had Gatwick taken the time to engage with us residents they would know of our concerns about the three new flight paths over West Sussex, areas that have never been affected by aircraft noise before, and the lack of infrastructure that exists now. There simply is not the funding in the local authorities budgets, and nor will there be, to finance the infrastructure for an airport larger than Heathrow with Gatwick not offering any substantial funding. The detrimental affect of urbanisation of our rural county would be devastating and devaluing, it was clear from today’s meeting that Gatwick is not trusted to deliver its ice-cream promises.
“This is a very good day for the county and for its residents and we hope the message will arrive loud and clear with the Airports Commission that the residents of West Sussex do not support a 2nd runway at Gatwick and now our council are, at last, truly representing us voters.”
Brendon Sewill, Chair of Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) said: “We are delighted by the result today as it clearly illustrates to the Airports Commission that residents do not support a second runway and nor does its council in a 37 to 26 vote by councillors today to oppose the expansion.”