A call to rename Gatwick Airport, Croydon International, has been branded ‘utter nonsense’ by Crawley MP Henry Smith.
Steve O’Connell, who is a Conservative assembly member for Croydon and Sutton, put forward the idea to the Greater London Assembly’s Transport Committee on Wednesday (February 13).
He said he wanted to rename the airport because the London Borough was fast becomingthe economic powerhouse of the south and it would make sense to form a close alignment between Greater Croydon and Gatwick.
He also said he supported the idea of a second runway.
But the notion has caused disbelief among Crawley politicians, with Cllr Bob Lanzer (Con, Pound Hill South and Worth) claiming renaming the airport would be a ‘bad idea,’ and MP Henry Smith saying the idea showed a lack of understanding for the Gatwick brand.
Mr Smith said: “The notion that the airport should be renamed as Croydon International is utter nonsense.
“As the Prime Minister recently acknowledged, Gatwick is taking over as the nation’s business gateway because of its location in the heart of the thriving Gatwick Diamond regional economy and ideal transport links with London and the rest of the country.
“Renaming the airport would undermine its strong, globally renowned brand and create confusion given that Croydon is miles down the road.
“Crawley town and Gatwick Airport’s symbiotic relationship is well established and more importantly is a great British business success which not only drives the regional economy but also helps fuel the national financial recovery.
“The focus should be on finding a lasting, sustainable solution to our nation’s aviation needs.”
Cllr Lanzer, leader of Crawley Borough Council, added: “I think that Croydon International would be a bad idea.
“Gatwick is an important and world-recognised brand. Changing the name would not respect our local history or that of Croydon.
“Gatwick had the world’s first airport with an integrated railway station, both opened in 1958.
“Croydon was the location for London’s first airport.
“Both historical perspectives should be respected along with the importance of the Gatwick brand and the quality associated with it.”
Cllr Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate),leader of the Crawley Labour group, said he felt that the idea was ‘simply bizarre.’
He said: “I know that Croydon has suffered under recent Conservative control but this kind of talk just comes across as desperate.
“Steve O’ Connell’s comment is simply bizzare.”
A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said it felt it was important to help support the economic growth of important surrounding towns - including Croydon.
The spokesman said: “We welcome support for our plans to expand Gatwick which would enable us to provide jobs and help support the economic growth of important surrounding towns like Croydon.
“A new runway at Gatwick will allow us to compete, grow and to increase the choice of destinations that passengers can fly to, to make this an airport that local areas can be proud of.”
It is not the first time the issue of re-naming places around the Crawley area has cropped up. From 1946 until 1958 Gatwick station was renamed Gatwick Racecourse, even though racing had been abandoned in 1940. The station was built in 1891 to specifically serve the racecourse.
In 2007 rumours circulated that Crawley could be renamed Gatwick City.