Study finds a 2nd Gatwick runway could require 40,000 new houses – a town the size of Crawley
A study by independent consultants jointly commissioned by the West Sussex County Council and the Gatwick Diamond business association has found that the total number of houses in Crawley at present is around 40,000, and some 30,000 – 45,000 new houses would be needed if a new runway is built at Gatwick. The study predicts that the number of jobs created by a new runway plus the number of jobs created in firms attracted to the area by doubling the size of Gatwick would be far in excess of any available labour. That would require a substantial influx of workers from other parts of the UK or from the EU. Local councils, which are already struggling to find sites for the current demand for housing – without Gatwick expansion. Councils would need to decide whether to build a whole new town or whether to add hundreds of new houses to every town and village – perhaps a thousand houses added to forty villages! A new runway would lead to widespread urbanisation of parts of rural Sussex and Surrey, and the “dream” could turn into a nightmare.
A new town the size of Crawley?
2.9.2013 (GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)
30,000 – 45,000 new houses would be needed if a new runway is built at Gatwick. That is the conclusion of a study by independent consultants jointly commissioned by the West Sussex County Council and the Gatwick Diamond business association. The total number of houses in Crawley at present is around 40,000.
The study, carried out by Berkeley Hanover Consulting, predicts that the number of jobs created by a new runway plus the number of jobs created in firms attracted to the area by doubling the size of Gatwick would be far in excess of any available labour. It would require a substantial influx of workers from other parts of the UK or from the EU.
Much of Surrey is designated as Green Belt but this is already under threat where planning policies are under review. In Sussex, Crawley and Horsham are already having difficulty finding sites for a few thousand houses to meet current demand. Local councils would need to decide whether to build a whole new town or whether to add hundreds of new houses to every town and village – perhaps a thousand houses added to forty villages!
According to Brendon Sewill, chairman of GACC: ‘This independent study, if correct, shows that a new runway would lead to widespread urbanisation, serious pressure on schools and hospitals, and the loss of much dearly-loved countryside. The more we find out, the more we doubt if the implications of the study were taken on board by Members of the West Sussex County Council before they took their surprise decision in July to support a new runway.’ (Details below).
Sewill added: ‘The Gatwick Diamond businessmen, who have been lobbying so hard to promote a new runway, also have some explaining to do. They sponsored this study so they can’t now disown it. Yet it shows that their dream of making Gatwick bigger than Heathrow could turn into a nightmare.
The study can be found on the WSCC website at Implications of changes to airport capacity – slides 2013 The housing figures are on page 17.
The West Sussex County Council vote on 19 July to support a new runway was suspect because:
- The ‘headline’ results of the study were presented to Members in the form of a PowerPoint presentation in February;
- The presentation meeting was held at short notice and not all Members were able to attend;
- Members who were unable to attend, and all new Members elected in May, only received a (fairly unintelligible) print-out of the PowerPoint presentation;
- No full written report of the study was produced;
- The vote on 19 July was called at two days notice on a spurious excuse of urgency;
- The vote took place before Gatwick announced their plans;
- No briefing was provided by council officers;
- In the debate only two councillors (Bill Acraman and Brenda Smith) out of seventy expressed concern about the housing impact;
- The vote was pushed through by senior Councillors who live in the Chichester area – the part of the county least affected by Gatwick;
- Their explanation that expressing support ‘in principle’ puts the Council in a better position to negotiate with the airport is unconvincing.
GACC is the main environmental body concerned with Gatwick. Founded in 1968, we have as members nearly 100 Borough, District and Parish Councils and environmental groups covering about a twenty miles radius from the airport. Our committee, elected annually, represents all areas. Because we rely on rational argument and put forward constructive solutions we have had strong support in Parliament and at every level of government.
GACC website at http://www.gacc.org.uk/latest-news.php
West Sussex County Council on 19th July voted to support a new runway at Gatwick. The debate seemed inappropriate as Gatwick had not by then published their runway plans. It was called at only two days notice on the spurious excuse of urgency, although no decision on runways is due for two years. Any balance between economic benefit and environmental damage appeared lacking, and there was no consideration for people under flight paths who do not live in West Sussex. In an unusual breach of the normal procedure the debate took place without briefing from council officers. A number of new members complained about the undemocratic process. Instead of the unseemly haste it might have been more sensible for the Council to have passed a resolution to study the new runway plans and to contribute constructively to the debate.
A survey of local residents was quoted as supporting a new runway, but in fact this was not so. See note, copied below
Survey on attitudes to air travel July 2013 – some comments by GACC
The survey relates to attitudes before any runway plans have been announced, and before any consequences have been spelt out. Nevertheless – on close examination the survey shows some significant results.
– Under half of residents agree that there is a need for more runway capacity in the SE. (page 12)
– Under half of residents support the building of a second runway at Gatwick. (page 13).
– Under half of residents agreed that people should be able to travel by plane as much as they want to – if additional infrastructure such as roads and housing are needed to support the expansion of airports. (page 10)
– A majority of residents did not agree that an increase in noise as a result of a new runway would be acceptable. (page 17)
– Only 31 % of businesses said that their employees ever take flights. (page 4) Only 20% of businesses replied that air travel is important to their organisation overall. (page 8)
Some misleading headings are given to the results in the survey, for example
‘The majority of residents are using air travel (87%)’ – but this refers to people who ‘ever take flights’. Not surprisingly the survey shows that only 13% have never flown ever in their lives. (page 4)
Overall trend was for air travel to increase over the next three years. But in fact 64% of residents expected the number of flights they take to stay the same while only 24 % expected it to increase. (page 5)
Only 9% of businesses expect air travel to increase compared to 83% who expect it to remain the same. Hardly justifies the statement that the overall trend is for an increase.
Some questions were biased
The question on page 13 which showed 48% in favour of building a second runway at Gatwick was biased because people were given a choice of various runway sites (eg Heathrow, Stansted etc) but not given the option of saying ‘nowhere’. If those who had said previously that there as no need for extra runway capacity had been given the choice of saying ‘nowhere’ the result would have been only 21 % in favour of a new Gatwick runway.
The answer to this question was a misleading headline in the West Sussex County Times – Survey reveals new Gatwick runway most popular choice for locals.
There were some serious omissions
There was no question relating to climate change. And no question about local pollution. And no question asking about possible traffic congestion.
Businesses were not asked whether the extra employment from a new Gatwick runway might cause labour shortages or force up pay rates.
There was no question asking people if they agreed that the airport capacity problem could be solved by the use of larger aircraft, although this is the main contention of most national environmental organisations such as CPRE, WWF and RSPB, and airport environmental groups such as GACC, HACAN and SSE.