We must not be asked to pay the high price of improving Zac Goldsmith’s chances of election in May in the race for the new London mayor.
CAGNE wrote to Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (and as a member of the Cabinet’s aviation sub-committee) last week explaining how the government’s delay (on Heathrow) is putting his consistency on hold.
For years, communities around Gatwick have lived under the threat that the airport will be allowed to expand and irreversibly damage the quality of life for the tens of thousands of us who have made our homes here.
We already know the impact of Gatwick Airport’s low cost airlines as they fly over our homes, day and night, seven days a week. We are sure that Mr Clark’s inbox is full communicaitions from upset residents asking for the Gatwick noise to be removed.
But Gatwick plan to increase the noise for all of us by flying 560,000 aircraft above our homes annually, so that they can increase profit for their owners. Gatwick, as it was clearly shown by the Airports’ Commission report recently, brings in the least into the UK economy.
Gatwick’s number one customer, EasyJet, does not see Gatwick expansion as the way forward. The Commission’s report goes on to suggest that the mass housing that Gatwick expansion would require would be spread around counties. How much urbanisation would Mr Greg’s consistency be facing, when up to 45,000 new houses are expected to be built from almost day one – as well as warehousing to service an airport larger than Heathrow?
What is frustrating is that no environmental audit has been undertaken on Gatwick. The airport would be the same size as Heathrow, but with one railway line that can’t be expanded, and a new line is ruled out. The only motorway, the M23, would be full before Gatwick’s expansion is finished.
Gatwick’s figures are very disingenuous, as they do not have to consider the pollution from the roads. They also fail to consider the noise impact on the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) destroyed by the airport’s expansion.
The Airports Commission process was lengthy and its conclusion was clear, which led many people in the Gatwick area to believe the uncertainty – and the blight – in the communities around Gatwick might be finally over. They hoped Gatwick could concentrate on dealing with the current issues, of running an effective one-runway airport, and improving the aircraft noise situation.
However, it would seem that, at best, we are being used in a political game and one that Greg Clark is party to, to stop Zac Goldsmith from triggering a by-election and to appease Boris Johnson. At worst, Gatwick’s expensive lobbying has succeeded in spinning Gatwick’s half-truths that it can ever be anything other than a bucket and spade airport. It is not well enough connected to London to make much of a contribution to business travel. Indeed, there were only around 15% business passengers in 2014. Gatwick is, and will remain, largely for cheap holiday travel.
Six airports surround London, (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, London City, Luton and Southend) which is more than New York. Why not let people fly from those airports that sit underused around the M25 and stop putting everything in one corner, just to please airport owners.
All the things the people who live in the towns and villages around Gatwick currently enjoy would have to bear the weight of an airport with 95 million passengers per year. As there is a very low level of local unemployment, there would also be the problem of in-migration of workers looking for somewhere to live. They would also need GPs, hospitals, schools, shops, leisure facilities etc bringing with them more cars to add to our already congested roads. Not to mention stress on water and sewage systems.
The government may think Gatwick is the easy option because that is the message Gatwick has sold, thought its lengthy and very expansive advertising and PR campaign.
But if the Government and Greg Clark read carefully – and understand – Gatwick’s proposals, they would see, they are very flawed. That is why 12 local authorities, numerous local councillors and all the local MPs have expressed their firm opposition to a 2nd Gatwick runway. They recognise that expanding Gatwick can never be the answer for the UK economy or for UK aviation.