‘Disaster for area if airport grows’ claim
MP say local labour market already ‘saturated’
29th October 2014 – Crawley News
By Luke Warren
GATWICK’S plans for a second runway have been labelled a “developmental disaster waiting to happen” by a group of local MPs.
The politicians, who represent areas around the airport, expressed their concerns in a letter sent to airport chief executive Stewart Wingate on October 20.
They claim Gatwick’s forecast of 22,000 new jobs at the airport and 100,000 more in the area by 2050 if a second runway is approved “ignores the stark reality that there is simply not the labour force to staff an expanded Gatwick”.
The letter points out that the region, spreading from Croydon in the north to Bognor Regis and Eastbourne on the south coast, has fewer than 26,000 people who are out of work.
In the letter Reigate MP Crispin Blunt added that he and his colleagues felt a second runway would create an intolerable strain on housing, the M23 and the London to Brighton railway line.
Mr Blunt told the Crawley News: “There’s an absolute need to wake up people locally to the consequences of having a business larger than Heathrow based at Gatwick.
“Gatwick have been extremely adroit about how they have advanced their campaign.
“They focused initially on business interests – and for local businesses there will be an economic gain because of the increased demand for their services.
“But what has not been thought through is where are people coming from to undertake the work that will be associated with all of that. And they have got to live somewhere.
“The local labour market is completely saturated. So these people all have to move here from somewhere else.
“They will need housing built for them. Every planning authority is struggling to find areas for housing to meet existing demand.”
Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, has shortlisted Gatwick and Heathrow as the only airports suitable for expansion.
The commission is due to deliver its final report after the general election next year, with the Government making a decision based on its findings.
The letter written by Mr Blunt was also signed by four other local MPs, who are all part of the Gatwick Co-ordination Group.
Crawley MP Henry Smith is a member of the group but didn’t sign the letter.
He insists he still hasn’t decided whether or not to back a second runway, as he wants to hear more about the potential gains and pitfalls.
But he did say that he thinks Heathrow is the favourite.
“I have got no inside knowledge,” he said. “I have met Sir Howard Davies but he keeps his cards close to his chest, and I doubt he’s come to a decision yet.
“But my gut feeling is 60/40 Heathrow.” Mr Smith wants Gatwick to come forward with more information about how it would mitigate the impact of a second runway, in terms of transport infrastructure, schools and healthcare provisions.
A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said it has pledged £50 million to help local authorities meet housing and infrastructure demands if it is allowed to build a second runway.