Standing room only as hundreds protest airport expansion
28th November 2014 – Crawley Observer
By Observer Reporter
Proposed expansion at Gatwick Airport has led to the largest protest meeting the town has seen in a long while.
Around 1,000 people crammed into the Apple Tree Centre, Ifield Avenue, on Saturday (November 22) where they asked questions of some 20 environmental groups who had set up stands in the hall.
There was standing room only when a panel of five local MPs spoke of their concern about the possibility of a second runway being built at Gatwick.
No subject has divided Crawley more than this, with some fearing the town would be irreparably damaged if expansion were granted and others fearing the same would happen if the extra runway went to Heathrow.
There was a similar situation at this meeting – though this time the division was between those who didn’t want a second runway at Gatwick and those who didn’t want one built anywhere.
Crawley MP Henry Smith found himself being ‘boo-ed’ when he stated the country did need another runway.
But the ‘boo’s turned to applause when he spoke of the “significant impact” expansion would have on housing and infrastructure in Crawley as well as school places, GP surgery sizes and healthcare.
He added: “Gatwick have not made the case for expansion here.”
Henry’s words were supported by Cllr Brenda Smith (Lab, Langley Green).
While acknowledging the economic benefits Gatwick has given to Crawley, Cllr Smith said: “I believe the current proposal is too high a price for us to pay.
“I really do question the need for additional runway space in the south east. We have many regional airports that are well under capacity and all would be very interested in improving their services to people in the south east.”
Given the meeting was organised by the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), it was no surprise to see the environmental impact of expansion high on the agenda.
MPs Crispin Blunt (Reigate), Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex), Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) and Charles Hendry (Wealden) all voiced their concerns with Mr Soames adding: “A second runway would be a disaster for our local environment.”
Mr Blunt branded expansion a “disaster for surrounding communities and environment” and Mr Hendry said: “A second runway does not make economic sense and it does not make environmental sense.”
It did not go unnoticed by those present that, while speakers discussed the increase in noise which expansion would bring, the sound of aircraft rumbling overhead was clearly audible.
Messages were read out from Horsham MP Francis Maude, who was abroad on Government business, as well as MP for East Surrey Sam Gyimah and John Stanley MP for Tonbridge.
All three threw their support behind the protest, which a spokesman for GACC said helped “disprove the assumption in some national newspapers that Gatwick would politically be the easiest option for a new runway”.
Sally Pavey, of GACC and the Campaign Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE) said organisers had been “overwhelmed” by the sheer number of people who turned out to support their protest.
She added: “People are genuinely angry. They do not want a second runway at Gatwick.
“Gatwick is big enough. That is our message loud and strong and we will be taking that to the Department for Transport.”
Last December, the Airports Commission short-listed one option at Gatwick and two at Heathrow to go to public consultation before a final recommendation is made to the government in July 2015.
The consultation was launched on November 11 and will run until 11.45pm on February 3. GACC urged residents to read and respond to the consultation documents, which can be found online at
or by writing to Freepost RTKX-USUC-CXAS, Airports Commission Consultation, PO Box 1492, Woking GU22 2QR.