Gatwick’s runway plans would mean labour shortage, considerable local house building and traffic congestion
Date added: September 12, 2014
Gatwick’s new push for expansion despite fears of labour shortage
By Matthew Beard (Evening Standard)
Gatwick airport has stepped up its challenge against Heathrow to build a new runway amid claims from opponents they will struggle to attract enough workers if they expand.
The Sussex airport, which received a boost last week after the “Boris Island” option was eliminated, claims 122,000 new jobs will be created with 22,000 in the immediate vicinity of the airport.
But the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign said the plan was unsustainable given that the area has one of the UK’s highest levels of employment and barriers to building homes.
Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, said the shortage was a “deal breaker”. He told the Standard: “Gatwick are proposing an airport busier than Heathrow yet Heathrow has 43,100 more people on-site today. Therefore the on-site job forecast is probably an underestimate by a factor of two. They can’t man this airport without a massive increase in local house building.”
A Gatwick spokesman said there was “every confidence” the local jobs could be filled, and that homes would be built at a rate of 400 per year, which is just five per cent of regional demand. [See the consultants’ report below, saying 3,000 to 5,000 units would be needed per year in the period 2025 to 2030. Gap??]
A new town the size of Crawley ?
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. 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 (West Sussex County Council) website at Implications of changes to airport capacity – slides 2013 The housing figures are on page 17.
“2 runways at Gatwick (with catalytic) could generate demand for increased housing:-
»2015-2020: 500/1,000 units pa
»2020-2025: 2,500/3,000 units pa
»2025-2030: 3,000/5,000 units pa “
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.