Oh what a circus, the Horsham District Council strategic planning meeting on 13 February.
Residents were turned away from council chambers at 5pm, only those chosen to ask questions were permitted. We were ushered over to the Capitol where we tried to follow proceedings. A third of the questioners did not attend and so the orchestrated answers were read out.
The chamber seating, I am told, was not full and we were sat watched by council officers unable to see to read the screen presentations.
The journalists were locked away in the chamber and so unable to see us clapping when Rusper Parish Council corrected Cllr Claire Vickers ‘pooh poohing’ of the 40,000 new houses required if Gatwick gets another runway. Rusper PC correcting her to the fact the figure comes directly from a WSCC, Crawley Borough Council and Gatwick Diamond document.
I was horrified to see Gatwick Diamond projecting the logo of the RSPCA on a screen at a planning meeting.
What place does an animal charity reliant upon our donation have with such a commercial organisation, allowing their logo to be blatantly used; an organisation that is one of the driving forces behind a second runway being built at Gatwick.
A second runway will destroy nature’s balance, destroy huge areas of floodplains intended by nature to take the high tides of the ‘flashy’ River Mole and provide creatures habitats; destroy tranquility of areas of outstanding natural beauty; removal of trees that drink 80 gallons a day and the habitat of so many animals that this charity is meant to be protecting and has been seen to fighting for!
Gatwick Diamond seemed on the charm offensive, smoothing the way for what they have planned, a new runway at Gatwick, and detailing how new offices; huge new offices were needed to be built outside of the town. Innuendoes to scare that Horsham would suffer if it did not compete; illustrating an office block in Crawley that is now being converted to housing. No one asked if that was because no businesses wanted to rent it or that there are empty offices at Gatwick!
‘Horsham business are already relocating’; could it be that they know the economic gridlock and noise that a new runway will bring to Horsham and that productivity and job markets will be drained as a consequence?
‘Workers do not want to go shopping in their lunch time, they just want a sandwich van’. Was a representative from the restaurants, retailers, Swan Walk in Horsham, who pay their council taxes, business rates, employ staff, given a chance to speak to council, to defend the town? NO!
So Gatwick Diamonds goal, it would seem, is to make Horsham town center a ghost town of housing and take all the business community outside of the town which would undoubtably mean certain death to many independent retailers and workers jobs.
As a lady sat next to me commented, ‘she wants to concrete over the lot.’
I’d ask the council to look at other towns where large offices have been built outside of town; it has killed the town centre and the area’s harmony.
‘We have a higher rate of worker output in Horsham district which would attract business.’ Perhaps that’s because workers can escape the office of a lunchtime and sit in the park to eat lunch instead of staring at office concrete, tarmac and breathing in pollution of congested roads?
Gatwick Diamond used an old Wisborough Green family firm that sells aviation parts as an illustration of relocation?
If you require to land helicopters then you can’t have your business in the town centre. I guess more businesses will be using helicopters for deliveries and reps as the roads gridlock, but they will have issues with air traffic control as the flight paths are now so wide and low out of Gatwick over all of Sussex and Surrey!
She used a story of an American firm with cats she helped relocate here; they did not want to live in Crawley, ‘didn’t like Crawley, but they liked Horsham’. I wonder if she mentioned that Horsham would soon be Crawley and building an airport the size of Heathrow would mean planes flying over the District constantly?
‘American routes are returning to Gatwick’; well no need for another runway then. ‘They’ve tried before but failed so I told them to market the routes.’ Not sure an international aviation company needs guidance on marketing, as business have found before, they just prefer Heathrow! My guess is that the American aviation companies, like so many other airlines, can’t get slots at Heathrow so they make do with Gatwick and the holiday tourists.
The Gatwick Diamond’s website is so misleading; no one opposes Gatwick expansion and Gatwick already has the potential to expand, but we do oppose a second runway making Gatwick as large as Heathrow. There is no infrastructure to support it and it will be the economy, the environment, health, education, and it will be us residents that will have to deal with the fall out and pay for this privately owned airport to expand!
Like the lambs led for live transportation, our councillors were led.
Conclusion – A frightening yarn, so glad that columnist Nik Butler saw through the spin last week. Never the complete picture, only the parts they want you to hear!
Mayes Lane, Warnham