Last Friday I had the great pleasure of delivering the opening speech at a seminar jointly organised by local Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) groups and the much-respected GACC, or Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign.
The theme was the possibility of a second runway at Gatwick Airport and the turnout – over 150 people ranging from representatives of neighbouring county councils, local MPs and concerned local residents – indicated the strength of our combined opposition.
Now, I’m quick to acknowledge that Gatwick Airport is an important part of our local and regional economy.
Many jobs depend on its existence but I continue to firmly believe that Gatwick should expand on the basis of it continuing to be a single-runway facility.
The Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies is looking into where additional runway capacity for the South East should be located – by no means an easy task. The point I wanted to get across, as strongly as possible, was that during the commission’s investigations, we should make sure that Sir Howard and his team are aware of the strength of local opposition to a second Gatwick runway.
Reasons for opposing are varied and range from environmental concerns to noise pollution and the need for thousands of new homes and supporting infrastructure if the airport were to become equivalent to or even bigger than Heathrow.
Whatever the reason, local groups and individuals should make their concerns clear to the Airports Commission - indeed my Parliamentary neighbour, Nicholas Soames, and I recently sent a joint letter to Sir Howard pointing out that West Sussex County Council’s very recent change of heart and new-found support for a second runway should in no way be interpreted that local people are also supportive.
I’ll continue to work with GACC, my Parliamentary colleagues, local county, district and parish councils, other local groups and concerned individuals to demonstrate our opposition and I’ll keep readers posted about developments within the campaign.
If anyone reading this is inspired to learn more or get involved with the campaign, a great place to start is the GACC website – the group’s various successes since its foundation in 1968 are detailed, it’s a mine of information and it’s easy to register your support or even join the group – find out more at: gacc.org.uk.