West Sussex withdraws support for Gatwick expansion


West Sussex CC has withdrawn support for Gatwick expansion, voting by majority to oppose a second runway at the airport following high levels of local disapproval.

The environmental impact and infrastructure implications such as congestion had prompted widespread opposition, the council revealed after voting by 37 to 26 against expansion.

This represents a U-turn for the authority, which in July 2013 agreed in principle to support the second runway as it would be ‘conducive to economic growth’.

Kent CC also withdrew its backing for a second runway last year in a dispute over new flight paths.

West Sussex drew up a list of ‘improvements’ that should be made to Gatwick extension plans, which it will submit in response to the Airports Commission -  calling for firm and funded commitments to improve rail links in and around the airport, with a view to having 50% of airport passengers arrive by public transport by 2050.

‘Without these improvements, which are not yet commitments, the impacts on the rail network and train passengers of expanding Gatwick Airport would be wholly unacceptable,’ the report states.

The Commission will report back to government after the election with a final recommendation for expanding the UK’s airport capacity after it shortlisted three options last year including a second runway at Gatwick, a third runway at Heathrow or an extension to one of the existing Heathrow runways.

West Sussex's Cllr Pieter Montyn, said: ‘Our response contains a raft of improvements that we believe need to be made by both Gatwick and the government. Councillors believed that Gatwick has not, to date, put forward sufficient evidence to counter the very serious environmental and noise fears of local residents and so voted to now oppose expansion.

'However, irrespective of our position, our role now is to start planning for the future. The decision about the runway will be made by government so we have a responsibility and duty to plan for either scenario – second runway at Gatwick or not. This is what we will continue to do that with our district and borough colleagues to ensure West Sussex gets the best deal it can.’ Gatwick said it was disappointed by the decision.

The news comes as Gatwick claimed it would be ‘the world's most efficient two-runway airport - flexible and responsive to meet the changing needs of passengers and airlines’ as a result of its plans.

A spokesman said: ‘The plans demonstrate how queues will be eliminated, passenger transit through the airport will be sped up.’

The airport proposes to eliminate queues with self-service bag drops and electronic security gates, and help passengers reach the boarding gate 30 minutes after arrival.

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