Members vote against Gatwick growth despite poll support
28th January 2015 – Crawley News
By Dave Comeau
CRAWLEY councillors have voted to oppose a second runway being built at Gatwick Airport – despite surveys suggesting more of the town’s residents wanted them to support expansion than object to it.
At an extraordinary meeting of the full borough council on Monday evening, councillors ignored the findings of separate polls carried out by the Crawley News and YouGov.
Both found that a far higher percentage of Crawley residents are in favour of a second runway than are opposed. In a free vote, whereby councillors were allowed to vote however they chose and not along party lines, 25 voted against a second runway being built, while only 11 voted in favour.
The remaining councillor, Liam Marshall-Ascough, boycotted the meeting, saying he thought there should have been a public referendum on the issue.
Last week a Crawley News survey of 1,000 people from the town revealed that more people in every single neighbourhood in Crawley backed a second runway than were opposed to the idea.
Overall 49.3 per cent were in favour, 23.2 per cent were opposed and 27.5 per cent were undecided.
Two separate YouGov polls, commissioned by Gatwick Airport Limited in September and November, found that 54 and 55 per cent of Crawley residents respectively were in favour of a second runway at Gatwick rather than Heathrow when asked.
The polls found that 37 per cent of those asked in September supported Heathrow expansion, while the figure fell to 33 per cent in November.
Nine per cent were undecided in September and in November 12 per cent had not made up their mind.
While anti-expansion campaigners have questioned the validity of these YouGov surveys, based on the fact that only 101 people were interviewed on each occasion, Crawley Borough Council has not carried out any survey of its own to gauge public opinion.
And there is yet to be an independent poll which has shown more people in Crawley to be opposed to a second Gatwick runway than in favour.
Speaking after the meeting, Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of Gatwick Diamond Business, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the result.
He added: “Being cynical and very blunt, I believe a lot of councillors voted to oppose a second runway because, firstly, there is an election coming up and some of them are in a precarious position. “Secondly, they wanted a quiet life. A lot of people making the noise are a minority, but they are very vocal.
“If we were successful in getting this second runway those councillors who opposed it could say ‘it’s not my fault’ while if it doesn’t go to Gatwick, they can say ‘look how influential I am’.”
Conservative councillor for Maidenbower Lenny Walker, who supported a second runway, told members at the meeting they were not representing their constituents’ views because they had not pro-actively asked enough residents for their opinions.
Instead, he said, they were voting based on their own views.
Some councillors, including Labour ’s Langley Green councillor Brenda Smith said they had received far more e-mails from people opposed to a second runway than in favour of it. But fellow Labour Langley Green councillor Stephen Joyce questioned how members could base their decision on e-mails, pointing out that people were unlikely to contact their local councillor if they were happy with something.
Labour ’s Raj Sharma, who represents Southgate, said he personally opposed a second runway, but had been approached by a large number of people from the black and ethnic minority community who said they supported it, so
he voted in favour.
Anti-expansion campaigners declared Monday’s vote a victory and called on the Airports Commission – which will make its recommendation on where a new runway should be built to the Government in the summer – to take note of the growing number of councils now opposed to growth at Gatwick.
Derek Meakings, from the One’s Enough campaign, said that if the Airports Commission recommends Gatwick as its preferred option, campaigners would become even more vociferous. The resident of St Catherine’s Road, Pound Hill, said: “They (the Government and Airports Commission) should be under no illusion that if they [opt] for Gatwick there will be massive opposition.
There will be picket lines, lobbying of MPs, and lots of very well-known and wealthy people that will be under the proposed flightpaths will bring a lot of money forward to fight against it.”
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