Arguments for and against a 2nd Gatwick runway, with benefits exaggerated and problems minimised by some proponents
In a long article covering a number of issues about Gatwick airport and its short-listed runway proposal, the local paper – the Argos – puts some of the points in favour of, and against, the runway. Those in favour of the airport are trying to play down the number of new houses that would be needed in the area, saying the estimate of 40,000 is too high. They claim there will not be as large a noise problem as there would be at Heathrow, and that there would be huge economic benefits. Opponents of the new runway, led by GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) say that expanding Gatwick would be bad news for everyone within a 20-mile radius of the airport, and would affect around 18,000 homes. “… a new runway is not just a strip of concrete but would mean twice as many aircraft in the sky, twice the pollution, twice the climate change damage, twice the noise, and new flight paths over peaceful areas.” In making Gatwick larger than Heathrow is today, it would lead to the urbanisation of much of Sussex. A new runway would mean more people coming to live in Sussex, more new companies, existing firms expanding … but “for most ordinary people living in the area at present there would be no economic benefit, just longer queues at road junctions, longer queues at the doctors and at the hospitals, larger classes for their children, more noise, and fewer green fields.”
Special report: The case for Gatwick’s second runway
Tuesday 21st January 2014
By Finn Scott-Delany, (Senior Reporter – The Argos)
With the final recommendations on airport expansion due next year, Gatwick and Heathrow have intensified lobbying for new runways.
Gatwick’s slick campaign has been effective in winning over councils and businesses with the promise of economic growth for the area. [Gatwick airport has a budget of around £10 million for their publicity campaign, some of which is spent lobbying councils]
But opposition to proposals is fierce due to fears that a new runway would lead to the urbanisation of Sussex and thousands of new homes.
The massive economic benefits that would be reaped by Sussex make up the well-rehearsed argument for Gatwick’s expansion. [Put out by Gatwick airport, backers Gatwick Diamond etc].
The plans would cost between £5 and £9 billion – a fraction of the cost of expansion at Heathrow – and would be privately financed and require a lesser public subsidy.[The KPMG report for the Airports Commission sees great problems in the airport funding the runway, as the low cost airlines that use Gatwick do not want to pay more. Much of the cost would, in reality, have to be paid by the UK taxpayer. KPMG report ].
Meanwhile the impact on noise and air quality would be much smaller than Heathrow, directors say.
Alastair McDermid, Airports Commission Director for Gatwick Airport, is in charge of making its case to the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, which will make its recommendations to Government in 2015.
He argued Gatwick had the support of businesses and councils and would have a significantly lower environmental impact.
Mr McDermid said: “We do not believe Heathrow will ever be expanded because of the massive environmental impact it would have, which makes it politically toxic as an option.
“Gatwick has support in principle from its closest local councils, [West Sussex rushed through a meeting in July 2013 to get backing from many councillors] is a significantly less complex project from a construction point of view and would have far less noise impact that a new runway at Heathrow.”
He said the airport will work hard to mitigate any environmental impact and compensate those affected by construction.
But he balked at suggestions it would require a town of some 40,000 new homes. [Where does he expect all the construction workers for the airport to live during construction? If the airport is indeed going to provide such huge economic growth, as is claimed, where will all these workers live? Where will the construction workers for these houses live? It is already hard to house everyone who wants to live in the area no. The article says below that 19,000 new jobs are expected].
He added: “Predictions of 40,000 are completely out of proportion compared to any previous experience of airport expansion and is scaremongering.
“Clearly there will be some – much smaller – need for additional housing in the area but this need won’t arise for another 10-12 years and will be spread over the following 20-30 years.
“There is no prospect of a second runway at Gatwick giving rise to a new settlement as has been suggested by anti-airport campaigners.” [If there is no new settlement, it means that houses will have to be added to every town or village for miles around. There would also be huge implications for roads, for rail travel, and for all other local infrastructure if all these people have to be fitted in somehow, without a specific new settlement].
Business is one of the biggest cheerleaders of expansion.
Gatwick Diamond Business, which represents 350 businesses in the area, says it has around 90 per cent support for the proposals among its members.
Jeremy Taylor, chief executive, said: “Gatwick is the best solution because it’s cheaper, quicker and the least disruptive – if managed in a way that benefits not just the airport and airlines but also communities around Sussex.
“Infrastructure improvements are achievable. The M23, A23 and Brighton Mainline are already being developed.
“Growing Gatwick will trigger better transport investment and employment – particularly in parts of the county that experience unemployment of 20 per cent.” [ie. workers will need to be brought in from other parts of the country; or from European countries; they will need homes].
Mr Taylor said political expediency had hampered the capacity debate for years. He said: “What we need now is strength from politicians to move this forward.
“Whoever is in power, the MPs of the three main areas will probably oppose it, but it’s what’s best for the national interest.
“The main economic benefits will be direct employment and figures released last year show we can expect 19,000 new jobs.
“The fear is if we don’t have a runway the infrastructure investment will be spent elsewhere.”
But he accepted questions remained over homes.
He added: “Where people are going to live is a key question that remains unanswered.
“But when we hear figures of 40,000 new homes, that is wrong, disingenuous and provocative. [He is saying 19,000 – above].
Urbanisation of Sussex
Campaigners are calling on Gatwick bosses to hold a fresh consultation once flight paths have been proposed.
Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, (GACC) said thousands would find themselves under the new paths if the airport got the all clear for a new runway.
He said: “Some people may benefit from the changes but thousands are going to find themselves under a new flight path, with their peace shattered and their house devalued.
“But they will be told that they cannot complain because they have already been consulted.”
The current consultation, which ends at midnight tonight (WEDS), is asking residents where they would like and dislike having new flight paths.
The conservation group is arguing that expanding Gatwick would be bad news for everyone within a 20-mile radius of the airport, and would affect around 18,000 homes.
Mr Sewill added: “We have repeatedly warned that a new runway is not just a strip of concrete but would mean twice as many aircraft in the sky, twice the pollution, twice the climate change damage, twice the noise, and new flight paths over peaceful areas.
“But the issue which is emerging is that making Gatwick larger than Heathrow would lead to the urbanisation of much of Sussex.”
Around 8,000 extra homes would be needed over the next 20 years, according to a West Sussex County Council and Gatwick Diamond-commissioned report.
West Sussex County Council has been lured by economic benefits and made a “rushed, undemocratic” decision to support expansion, Mr Sewill said.
Mr Sewill, a Gatwick expert, former civil servant, and opposition campaigner, added: “A new runway would mean more people coming to live in Sussex, more new companies, existing firms expanding, higher total income, and higher council tax receipts.
“But for most ordinary people living in the area at present there would be no economic benefit, just longer queues at road junctions, longer queues at the doctors and at the hospitals, larger classes for their children, more noise, and fewer green fields.
“A vote for a new runway is a vote for a worse quality of life for local residents.”
A spokesman for Gatwick said there were no “lines on maps” at present to show residents.
He added: “The result of this consultation will enable us to draw up the new flight paths.
“The problem is, if you consult by using lines on maps all those near the proposed path complain and those who are not under one stay quiet.
“This is the best way of doing it.” [ie. People who will be badly affected are not to be given an opportunity to complain. Their complaints would be inconvenient].
The Gatwick spokesman ruled out any further consultation on the flight paths.
To have your say before midnight tonight, visit www.londonairspaceconsultation.co.uk.
Strong sentiments against expanding Gatwick are agreed by a councillor and long-term resident of Langley Green – which is less than a mile from the airport.
Councillor Brenda Smith, the leader of the Labour group at West Sussex County Council, said: “My parents moved to Sussex because it was a cleaner, greener area than London. A new runway will kill all that.
“There isn’t enough infrastructure. The neighbourhood roads cannot possibly support more traffic.
“It’s barmy. A second runway is simply not a viable option.
“I hear all the arguments about economic benefits but we don’t have the hospital capacity to support 20,000 extra people, it’s crazy.
Coun Smith said the airport is already in “a very confined, densely populated area.”
“It’s not limitless space,” she added.
“The owners are looking for a nice fat profit to sell it on. It’s not a philanthropic drive to help the people of the area, it’s for shareholders.
“I don’t think people get it. They just see jobs, which is understandable, but where will we house all these people? We’re struggling to build enough homes as it is. If anyone thinks I’ve got a personal interest in this they’re wrong – I will probably be dead and buried before it gets built.
“I want to protect the town that’s given me a great life.”
The runway debate hinges on whether it is agreed that the South East needs more capacity.
Sir Howard Davies, leading the aviation commission, believes it does – but not before 2030.
His interim report puts Gatwick and Heathrow as frontrunners for expansion, with the possibility of further capacity being needed after 2040.
The issue is a political hot potato for MPs, who will need to weigh up local and national interests.
Several of Sussex’s mostly Conservative MPs have come up against the plan.
Crawley MP Henry Smith – the constituency most affected – has opted to delay making a decision until he has more information.
The final decision has been delayed until after the general election in 2015, with many believing only a strong majority Government will have the mandate to push through such a controversial project.
A legal agreement blocking expansion at Gatwick expires in 2019 but the airport could seek planning permission before then in preparation for an expanded airport by 2025.
Politically, Gatwick is seen as having the least effect environmentally in the event of a new runway- though that won’t make it any easier for constituency MPs to support the plans.
Option 1: ‘Dependent Segregated Mode’
*Close-spaced runways with a separation of less than 760m *Too close to operate independently with operations on one runway temporarily interrupting operations on the other.
*One runway would be used for aircraft arrivals and one for departures.
*Would support around 67 to 70 flights per hour – an overall capacity of some 60-66 million passengers per year by 2050.
Option 2: ‘Independent Segregated Mode’
*Runways positioned 760m or more apart, operated independently.
*Arrivals on one runway would not affect departures on the other.
*Capacity would increase to around 75 flights – 75-82 million passengers per year by 2050.
Option 3*** : ‘Independent Mixed Mode’ (the model short-listed by the Airports Commission)
*Runways at least 1,035m apart *Each runway would accommodate both arriving and departing aircraft to maximise flexibility and capacity.
*Capacity would amount to between 95 and 100 flights per hour or more – 80-87 million passengers per year by 2050.
***The favoured option but the most destructive