Gatwick Airport Second Runway
Councillors go head to head on airport’s future
4th February 2015 – Crawley News
At a Crawley Borough Council meeting last week, councillors voted to oppose a second runway being built at Gatwick Airport.
Following the vote, which saw 25 councillors object to expansion and 11 vote in support of it, we asked two of them to explain the reasons behind their decisions.
Good or Bad? Debate rages over whether the gains of Gatwick Airport expanding outweigh the pain
For a Second Runway: Peter Lamb – Labour
THERE’S a reason Gatwick arouses strong feelings.
A new runway would affect every aspect of life in Crawley and I’ve no doubt those who voted against it honestly believed it was in their residents’ best interests.
Ultimately, it is for the government to take the decision and they will do so on the basis of a report from the Airports Commission.
The commission has already decided a new runway will be going to either Heathrow or Gatwick. Gatwick still has space to grow – although with one runway that means more night flights and stacking – but Heathrow is now full and they’re forcing everyone’s hand.
The problem for us is that airlines want to fly from Heathrow. How often have we seen airlines switch to Heathrow when slots have opened up? This month Gatwick lost Vietnam Airlines and others have indicated they’d move given the opportunity.
It’s not hard to see what will happen if Heathrow’s capacity suddenly increased by 50 per cent. When the council commissioned a study into the implications of airport expansion, the report estimated that 6,000 current airport-related jobs would be lost if Heathrow got the runway, a point supported by recent research from a major credit rating agency. That’s before we consider the impact upon non-airport-related industries who’ve located here to gain access to a global customer base, including many of Crawley’s biggest employers.
Some claim that talking about job losses amounts to “bullying”, but over 20 per cent of Crawley’s working residents work at Gatwick. The risk to people’s jobs cannot be ignored. Long-term unemployment devastates the lives of families and the life chances of their children; I will not take it lightly.
The idea that Gatwick, and Crawley’s economy, will survive by focusing entirely on one low-cost airline is akin to building houses on sand. Crawley has traditionally benefited from low unemployment, the New Town built industry alongside houses and as those companies declined the airport took up the slack.
Too many people think that means Crawley is in some way immune to unemployment; 20 years from now a very different future looks possible. Retail is the single biggest employment sector in Crawley, but the internet means that the need for manpower is declining rapidly.
Meanwhile, Gatwick and associated industries are automating. Currently, Gatwick could reach peak capacity on the one runway without needing to employ a single additional worker. All the while, part-time work is being forced upon people in need of real jobs, disguising the true degree of unemployment in the town.
Gatwick are prohibited from building a new runway until 2019 at the earliest and that runway wouldn’t reach peak capacity until 2050. The runway debate isn’t just about the needs of today, it’s about preparing Crawley for the next 35-years.
Gatwick brings work and, while the most basic jobs are increasingly becoming automated, by improving Crawley’s attractiveness to non-airport-related industries we’ve the opportunity to not only improve job quality over time but build resilience to any sudden decline in air travel.
I’m very aware of what a runway would mean for housing, infrastructure and the environment but our housing problems have always been more about politics than geography and with sufficient investment the infrastructure issues can be addressed.
Sadly, the environmental impact cannot easily be resolved but planes have become quieter and cleaner and we’ve no reason to believe this won’t continue.
Unemployment, however, is heading in the wrong direction. It’s an area where government intervention has a poor track-record and where we don’t yet have a back-up plan. And that’s why, when all the issues are tallied, I could not in good conscience have opposed the runway.
Pain or Gain? The Airport expansion debate rages on
Against a Second Runway: Bob Lanzer – Conservative
AS the local planning authority for Gatwick Airport, Crawley Borough Council will not take the decision on airport expansion but will be responsible for determining future detailed planning applications.
At its recent Gatwick debate, Crawley Borough Council decided to object to a second runway. Sitting on the fence with the amount of evidence now available would not have been credible and it was right to take this view. The council retains its voice.
To believe otherwise you would have to also believe that the council was incapable of influencing and working with people with whom it disagreed, and this is not the case. The council has also committed to continue to work with all stakeholders for the benefit of the town.
The Airports Commission has described five aviation market scenarios but it is unclear which is most likely. This means wide-ranging estimates of the impacts from a second runway. Figures for housing and jobs show that nobody can know the exact effect of such a major decision.
Estimates for growth in job numbers range from 500 to 23,700 by 2030 in the local area and wider region, in addition to 11,500 to 21,500 construction jobs in place from 2024 to 2039.
More work is needed by the Airports Commission on the impact of additional runway capacity being built at Heathrow but not Gatwick. We should, though, derive some confidence from the effective and intelligent investment made by Gatwick’s current owners, positioning it well to compete with Heathrow whatever decision is made. Crawley has historically had low levels of unemployment. While all jobs are important and worthwhile, we have a relatively low-wage economy and the council, as a Living Wage employer, should not wish to support this situation becoming more acute.
The point links with the housing market. In 2014 the ratio of lower quartile house prices to lower quartile earnings was more than seven to one. This affordability issue affects rent levels and the length of the council’s housing waiting list. Low unemployment means that many new jobs would go to people from outside of Crawley, increasing housing demand.
Major world events, such as Middle East wars, have been harmful to our local economy, highlighting our existing dependency on the aviation industry. We need greater economic diversity rather than growth fuelled by the greatest imaginable increase in our environmental footprint.
Estimates for additional households resulting from a second runway range from an implausible zero up to 18,400 by 2030. This growth might be spread across 14 council areas but much would be within Crawley or nearby.
Most councils within the Gatwick assessment area cannot meet their existing housing needs. Crawley can only meet 60 per cent of its current housing and employment needs up to 2030. Major new housing developments would appear beyond those already being built and those present in Crawley’s Local Plan.
Local newspapers often carry articles with quite bitter community objections to new housing. These are real impacts for real people which would become much more frequent with a second runway.
There are other environmental and infrastructure impacts which cannot be fully mitigated. The 57dB noise contour line, which represents the onset of serious community annoyance, would move south affecting northern parts of Ifield, Langley Green and the new Forge Wood neighbourhood. We would lose 165 acres of employment land, 186 acres of woodland and see a reduction in air quality in some locations.
A second runway brings jobs that reduce economic diversity and worsens a more pressing housing issue that is already far from being solved. For Crawley, the pain outweighs the gain.