MP urges county councillors to reject Gatwick second runway

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has urged West Sussex county councillors to reject the plans for a second runway at Gatwick, calling it “an unsustainable proposal that will damage our villages, towns and countryside”.

 

The MP has written to county councillors ahead of their Environmental and Community Select Committee meeting on Wednesday 14 January, and the Full Council meeting on 19 January, which are considering the County Council’s response to the Airport Commission’s consultation document on a second runway.

Mr Herbert expresses his concern that "the environmental impact of a second runway on rural West Sussex has not been fully understood" and highlights the impact of 250,000 more flights on tranquil rural communities.

The MP also warns that a second runway would add to development pressures in West Sussex "which are already acute", pointing out that the County Council's own study concluded that new jobs created by a new 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.

Mr Herbert points out that the Planning Inspector who ruled against the Mayfield new town before Christmas also warned that a second runway would require Horsham's housing plans to be revised.

The MP says that the public "should be made fully aware that local plans which are already requiring controversial housing developments would have to be revised if a second runway were agreed; that villages would be required to take even more housing with more loss of countryside and green spaces; and that deeply unpopular proposed major developments such as the Mayfield new town would be more likely to win approval."

He says: "I do not 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."

The full text of Mr Herbert's letter is as follows:

I am writing to West Sussex county councillors in the Arundel & South Downs constituency about proposals for a second runway at Gatwick Airport.  This is ahead of consideration of the County Council’s response to the Airport Commission’s consultation document on a second runway by the Environmental and Community Select Services Committee this week, on Wednesday 14 January, and Full Council next week, on Monday 19 January.

I am concerned that the environmental impact of a second runway on rural West Sussex has not been fully understood.  First, an increase of 60.8 million passengers - more than two and a half, and nearly three times, the current number - would mean more than 250,000 additional flights every year.  The flight path trials last summer which affected our constituency in the Wisborough Green area caused enormous upset and highlighted the sensitivity of tranquil rural communities where residents found aircraft noise especially intrusive.  The Airports Commission recognises that the number of people affected by noise would increase significantly and that "there are areas around Gatwick that are rural and have high levels of tranquillity that would be adversely impacted by new development at the airport".

The second major concern relates to development.  You will be aware that the Planning Inspector recently ruled that the increased level of housing involved in the proposed Mayfield new town between Henfield and Sayers Common was “not required in current circumstances”.  However, he made clear that a second runway at Gatwick would have “major implications” for planning and would require development plans to be revisited:

“As was acknowledged by virtually all participants at the hearings, any decision to expand Gatwick Airport by building a second runway would have major implications for the planning of the whole sub-region and would almost certainly necessitate an urgent review of the HDPF (and quite probably the plans of all authorities in the Gatwick Diamond area).  If that were to occur, the way in which future development needs should be met would undoubtedly be raised again.  It would be for the Council to determine, in constructive cooperation with other relevant bodies, including particularly Mid Sussex DC, how those needs would be met.”

Gatwick Airport claims that employment growth associated with a second runway would lead to demand for an additional 9,300 new homes across the study area between 2025 and 2050, representing 5 per cent of additional demand forecast for the same period.  These homes would be built over 25 years between 2025 and 2050 in the 14 local authority areas around the expanded airport that cover an area from south London to the South Coast.  The Airports Commission gives an upper end housing estimate of 18,400 homes by 2030.

However, consultants commissioned by West Sussex County Council and the Gatwick Diamond Initiative concluded that new jobs created by a new 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.  The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign point out that “since most of Surrey is designated as Green Belt it has been assumed that almost all these new houses would need to be built in West Sussex”.

I hardly need to tell you about the existing development pressures on our villages and towns in West Sussex.  We already 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 do not 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.

I believe that the public should be made fully aware that local plans which are already requiring controversial housing developments would have to be revised if a second runway were agreed; that villages would be required to take even more housing with more loss of countryside and green spaces; and that deeply unpopular proposed major developments such as the Mayfield new town would be more likely to win approval.

The draft County Council response to the Airport Commission’s consultation document ignores these issues.  It repeats the Council's policy of support for a second runway in principle while being "cognisant" of the environmental and infrastructure issues.  It downplays the need for new housing, merely repeating Gatwick Airport's lower estimate of housing demand, and makes vacuous statements such as "local authorities will have to consider how the impacts might be planned for and accommodated through future iterations of local plans".

The draft response fails to address the main issue, which is that a second runway at Gatwick would add to development pressures which are already acute in rural West Sussex.  These impacts are known and cannot be mitigated.  The County Council cannot simultaneously hold the positions of support for a second runway while being concerned about the impact on the local environment.  I hope that councillors will therefore agree to amend the Council's response to the consultation to make clear that a second runway at Gatwick is an unsustainable proposal that will damage our villages, towns and countryside, and that the Council opposes it.

                                                                                                 ENDS 

 

Notes

1.    The Airports Commission consultation document can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/381912/AC01_tagged_amend_25_11.pdf. 

2.    The draft response from West Sussex County Council can be read here: http://www2.westsussex.gov.uk/ds/cttee/ecs/ecs140115i4.pdf. 

3.    The jointly commissioned report from West Sussex County Council and The Gatwick Diamond made by Berkeley Hanover Consulting can be read here: http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/idoc.ashx?docid=e94f27d0-ab5e-4900-84da-2455c5504d57&version=-1..

4.    The GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) report ‘Gatwick Unwrapped’ can be read here: http://www.gacc.org.uk/resources/Gatwick%20Unwrapped%201.pdf

5.    The Planning Inspector's letter following the Horsham District Planning Framework Examination can be found here: http://www.horsham.gov.uk/planningpolicy/planning-policy/horsham-district-planning-framework-examination.

Michelle TaylorGatwick