Fundraising has already begun to raise some £70,000 estimated to be needed to challenge the case in court, and residents of the areas beneath a proposed narrow corridor, including the High Weald Area of Natural Beauty, Edenbridge and Tunbridge Wells, are preparing to take the airport to task.
The proposal affects Gatwick routes below 4000ft and suggests a narrow flight path rather than the current one, which is spread out, although the exact location has not been revealed. There will be one corridor for daytime flights and another for night flights, which campaigners are concerned will bring more aircraft over the area beneath. Map showing Gatwick proposal
• Flights on the main route would usually be between the white lines, with the concentration towards the centre as shown by the white arrow. Likewise flight paths on the potential respite route would be usually be between the blue lines and with the concentration towards the centre of the respite option swathe as shown by the blue arrow.
• Occasional flights would still be seen outside of the white/blue lines, across the whole region where flights are seen today, including Royal Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, however the regularity of flights over these areas would be less than today.
• ‘Straight in Approaches’ on the alignment between Hildenborough and Tonbridge would also continue at night.
Adding to a growing list of concerns raised by the consultation, which Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark described as “flawed,” critics are also hitting back at the decision to take down information about the ownership of Gatwick from the airport’s website. [Its website at http://www.gatwickairport.com/business-community/about-gatwick/at-a-glance/ just says: “Gatwick Airport is owned by group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the majority shareholder..” see more detail below]
Steve Haysom said: “I think there is a likelihood there will be a legal challenge after the consultation process, which ended on Thursday. We have kicked off a fundraising programme but we expect it to be in the region of £70,000.
“They think they can just crush us – I think in a way, Gatwick expected that community would be pitched against community, but the parishes have been getting together to say the way it has been conducted has got people’s backs up.”
At a meeting in Penshurst last week where 275 people met to voice their concerns at the consultation, also attended by Tonbridge MP Sir John Stanley, discussions began about how to fund the challenge and on what grounds it could be made.
Mr Haysom said: “There won’t be sufficient public awareness to get the decision revoked now and any challenge will have to be made retrospectively. It will depend on us having the funds.”
He expressed concerns about an increase in aircraft noise in recent weeks, which some campaigners believe is the trial of a ‘superhighway’, an accusation denied by Gatwick chief executive Stewart Winsgate.
“Mr Wingate says there have been no changes to the route, but we have no reason to believe him,” Mr Haysom said. “They are making all these plans, but what they are going to do is do everything they can to make more money.
“There has never been anything like this before in the UK and so there is no evidence of what to expect but we are anticipating house prices falling between ten per cent and 25 per cent if the flight path goes ahead.”
In a letter to Mr Wingate, Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark wrote: “It concerns me that to even have put forward a main route that appears to overfly such known residential areas departs from this principle. I believe it is imperative that this misguided proposal should be sent back to the drawing board.” Link to Greg Clark input.
Pressure is mounting on Gatwick from all sides, and Bidborough resident Clare Pitcher, who made a formal complaint about the consultation to the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “The fact we do not understand why they are putting it forward makes a lot of people suspicious.
“We do not know why they want to make these changes – no business, safety or environmental reasons have been given so the conclusion people have come to is they will try and put more planes through.
“If it was a road, we would have had open meetings in the High Weald – there have been meetings in Tunbridge Wells but none in the small villages affected.”
To respond to the consultation, visit: www.gatwickairport.com/gatwickairspaceconsultation