Crawley councillors say Airports Commission report into impact of Gatwick 2nd runway is riddled with mistakes
Crawley councillors will vote on what the council’s position should be on a 2nd Gatwick runway on January 26. Members of the borough’s overview and scrutiny committee have delivered a scathing assessment of an Airports Commission report into the impact of the runway, saying it is inaccurate, inadequate and ill-informed. The councillors do not want the council to remain impartial on the issue. Concerns were raised about what they feel are serious shortcomings by the Commission regarding its grasp of the current infrastructure, housing issues and level of employment in Crawley, provision of schools, and the impact expansion would have on the local area. There is little confidence the Commission is even aware of some of these matters, or that it can possibly predict what sort of infrastructure will be needed to support a 2nd runway. While the Commission presumes there is available labour, the council says the current unemployment figure is only 5.3%. As it is, Crawley cannot currently meet its target of building 500 homes a year, due to a lack of available land to build on, let alone many more. There was serious concern about schools that would be demolished, and the runway’s impact on the borough’s newest school.
Council blasts report into impact of second runway at Gatwick Airport as riddled with mistakes
16.1.2015 (Crawley News)
“HOGWASH”: An Airports Commission report has been slammed by the council
CRAWLEY councillors have delivered a scathing assessment of an Airports Commission report into the impact of a second runway at Gatwick – labelling it inaccurate, inadequate and ill-informed.
Members of the borough council’s overview and scrutiny commission (OSC) met on Monday to discuss what comments they wished to make before the full council meets next week to decide to support or oppose airport expansion.
The councillors present unanimously rejected a suggestion that the council should remain impartial, stating that a decision must be reached either way as to whether to back Gatwick’s proposals at next Friday’s meeting.
However, concerns were raised about what they feel are serious shortcomings on the part of the Airports Commission regarding its grasp of the current infrastructure, housing issues and level of employment in Crawley, and the impact expansion would have on the local area.
With all this in mind severe doubt was cast by councillors on how the commission, which will advise the Government on whether an extra runway should be built at Gatwick or Heathrow, can possibly predict what sort of infrastructure will be needed to support a second runway.
After several members spoke of their individual concerns, OSC chairman Bill Ward said: “It’s almost unbelievable that we’ve got a commission which has been sitting for so long and most of their data is hogwash.”
The Airports Commission’s latest report suggests there is a ready-made labour force already in place in Crawley, ready to take up the jobs expansion will bring, citing an unemployment rate of about nine per cent.
However, the council says the current unemployment figure is only 5.3 per cent.
The town cannot currently meet its target of building 500 homes a year due to a lack of available land to build on.
Providing sufficient primary school places is another issue which crops up every year in the town, however councillors said there appears to be no real indication that the commission understands or is even aware of these issues.
One councillor, Labour’s Geraint Thomas, questioned whether the Airports Commission is even aware of the existence of the recently-opened Gatwick School in Manor Royal, or the listed St Michael and All Angels Church, in Lowfield Heath, which would have to be demolished, as there is no mention of them within the report.
Cllr Thomas questioned what impact another runway would have on Crawley’s newest school, which will eventually cater for 900 pupils, in terms of noise and air pollution.
And he asked what will happen to the bodies buried in the graveyard at the church.
Sallie Lappage, the council’s forward planning manager, and Rachel Cordery, its principal planning officer, have drafted an extensive report to be sent to the Airports Commission outlining what needs to be addressed locally to make a second runway viable. It also highlights the inaccuracies in the Airports Commission report.
The officers have stated that in order to support the amount of housing which would be needed to cater for extra staff working at an expanded airport a new hospital must be built, serving Crawley and Horsham.
An Airports Commission spokesman said the group had done an “unprecedented amount of work” in looking at the options for expansion and welcomed Crawley Borough Council’s comments, which will “help them come to a conclusion” on which option is better.
The deadline for the council to make comments, and to take a firm stance on supporting or opposing Gatwick expansion proposals, is February 3. All councillors will vote on what the council’s position should be on January 26.
Crawley Council told “get off the fence” over Gatwick – key Council debate to be on 26th January
Crawley Borough Council has been told to get off the fence on a 2nd runway at Gatwick. Members of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Commission met recently to discuss the council’s response to the Airports Commission’s consultation. One councillor said: “… at this moment, what people in Crawley … want to hear is their elected representatives taking a view. Not having an opinion and sitting on the fence won’t do any good for anybody.” Others said they had received little or no correspondence from people in favour of expansion, but plenty of opposition, and this must be communicated back to the council. Cllr Brenda Smith said: “We are here to represent the people who elected us. If we haven’t got the ability to make the decision for ourselves, then we shouldn’t be doing the job.” Several councillors found fault with the Airports Commission documents, and errors on housing and employment. There were concerns about the “unrealistic assumption” that housing growth would be spread equally over the 14 authorities surrounding the airport. One councillor said: “Crawley will be just a reserve army of labour for the airport. It will become a suburb of Gatwick.” The view of the Council will be debated at a Special Council Meeting on Monday January 26 – which the public can attend.