The news from the Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies is disappointing for those of us concerned about a second runway at Gatwick, as I’ve already said this week, but I’d like to enlarge a little on the effects it might have on us in Sussex.
There is no real argument about the need for more airport capacity in the UK. Every year, six million Britons travel abroad for work or pleasure, the vast majority by air, and indeed the UK has more seats available and serves more destinations on a daily basis than any other European country.
London airspace is already highly complex and congested, but the demand for capacity is of course focused on the South East which is the most densely populated area of our island.
We should not forget though how much our local economy relies on Gatwick, with so many people employed at the airport itself or in one of the many businesses which serve the supply chain of such a complex organisation. That is why I have always supported the expansion of Gatwick as a single runway airport.
Building a second runway would have huge environmental impacts with noise pollution the greatest, and this is seen to be the biggest single concern about its feasibility although the commission report does describe significant improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency and noise footprint.
The second concern is the need for much improved local infrastructure and for many more houses to be built in an area where local councils are already struggling to meet the targets, the paradox being that the provision of these houses would ensure that many more families would be subject to the noise pollution.
The Commission report suggests that Gatwick, London City and Luton are all forecast to become full by 2030 across a range of scenarios regardless of whether or not there is an additional runway, and by 2050 the carbon capped forecast is predicted to have risen still further to more than 95 per cent of available capacity.
The good news is that work of the Commission is not yet done, and has so far only confirmed this need for increased runway capacity somewhere in the South.
It has shortlisted two options for new runways at Heathrow and one at Gatwick, and more work is to be done on the option of creating an entirely new hub airport in the Thames estuary.
It is inevitable that when the decision is made there will be as many people frustrated and disappointed as will be excited at the prospect of growth in the local economy.
I will continue with other West Sussex MPS to ensure that the voice of local people is heard throughout the decision making process.