Over the next week West Sussex County Council will decide their response to the Airport Commission’s consultation document on a second runway at Gatwick.  I'm increasingly concerned about what this proposal would mean for local communities.

Last year's flight path trials which affected Wisborough Green and other areas caused enormous upset from aircraft noise.

Gatwick Airport has recognised the problems, and when I met the Chief Executive at the end of last year he said that they did not want to see this concentrated new flight path put in place.

But even if that doesn't go ahead, a second runway could bring much bigger problems.

The Airports Commission recognises that the number of people affected by noise from a second runway would increase significantly and that rural areas around Gatwick which have high levels of tranquillity would be adversely impacted.

I fear that the environmental impact of a second runway on rural West Sussex has not been fully understood.  There would be 250,000 more flights a year and nearly three times as many passengers.

That would mean a lot more housing.  West Sussex County Council's own study concluded that new jobs created by a second runway would require 30,000 to 45,000 new houses, equivalent to a new town the size of Crawley or 1,000 houses added to 40 villages.

Since most of Surrey is Green Belt, West Sussex would be likely to bear the majority of the new housing.

I urge everyone to read the letter from the Planning Inspector who before Christmas ruled against the Mayfield new town, saying it was “not required in current circumstances”.  That was welcome, but he also warned that a second runway would necessitate Horsham's housing plans being revised.

We already face huge development pressures on our villages and towns in West Sussex.  We have a significant infrastructure deficit, with congestion on our roads, local health services under strain and oversubscribed schools.  Our district councils have had to take very difficult decisions to meet housing demand and villages are expanding to the limit.

I don't believe that significantly more housing than already planned could be allocated in West Sussex over the next two decades without fundamentally risking the rural character of much of our county and causing enormous public concern.

A second runway at Gatwick is an unsustainable proposal that will damage our villages, towns and countryside.

Nick HerbertGatwick