LETTER: Hasty and ill thought out path

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In your edition of November 6 you published a letter from me in which I repeated my challenge to Ms Louise Goldsmith, the leader of WSCC, to reconcile the County Structure Plan with WSCC’s support of the second runway.

When I returned home that evening I was delighted to find a two page letter from her. Alas, my anticipation of a stimulating intellectual challenge rapidly turned to disappointment.

The first five paragraphs were statements of the obvious about the Airport Commission etc. All the same, in paragraph 4, having stated that the council supports the runway ‘in principle’, she added, ‘The council is equally cognisant of the environmental and infrastructure issues...’

If they are equally important, how does she justify supporting the runway ‘in principle?’

Her sixth, final, paragraph on page 1 again makes my point for me. She states the West Sussex Structure Plan still to be relevant and that its policies... ‘ help identify the issues... and cautions that will have to be considered and addressed if the Government decides that increased airport capacity should be provided at Gatwick...’.

Just so, but what Ms Goldsmith fails to mention is that the Structure Plan’s words quoted by me in my letter to you of 27th August make it abundantly clear that boosting economic growth in the Gatwick/Crawley area TAKES SECOND PLACE to the dangers of overheating the area through further growth. So how does she justify supporting the runway ‘in principle’?

In her first paragraph on page 2, she admits that the policies I cite identify ‘key issues’. So how does she justify supporting the plan ‘in principle’?

In her next two paragraphs she tells me that ‘The county council has already advised Gatwick of questions, issues and concerns that it has about the proposals... Councils (sic) continue to press and question Gatwick for further information about the proposals and what they might mean for West Sussex and communities’.

If WSCC was so short of information and had so many questions about the proposal, how could and why did the governing faction support it, even ‘in principle’?

Her fourth paragraph on that page then, predictably, indulges in the usual elementary economics and cites ‘the potential economic boost’ such a development would bring.

However, one of her colleagues has calculated that the result of paying for the infrastructure would be that £100 per annum would be added to every council tax bill in West Sussex. And what will be the effect of devaluing the worth of every house in Rusper, Warnham, Slinfold, Billingshurst and elsewhere by an average of 25 per cent as a result of the mega increase in air activity? The longer term effect on the surrounding area of a giant airport nearby may at least be guessed at by comparing, Horsham to, say, Hounslow.

Is that economic progress?

In the last three to four years £680 million, the profits of GAL, have been drained away offshore, tax-free. With a second runway, that figure will be multiplied.

Is that economic progress?

Finally Ms Goldsmith proclaims the virtues of ‘strengthening the local economy’. The jobseekers rate in Horsham is 1.1 per cent. It is quite likely that however good national economic progress, that figure, containing as it does people moving between jobs, could not be much lower. The rate in Crawley is 2.1 per cent. Respectively, the two areas have an unemployment rate of less than two thirds and less than three quarters that of Germany, probably still the most prosperous area of the EU.

So why did Ms Goldsmith and her colleagues take such a hasty and ill thought out path in July 2013? If they thought they were buying cheap votes they may find the electorate less simple than they chose to believe.

Let us hope they follow the example shown by Kent County Council last Monday and show the courage to withdraw the support they gave so hastily in July of last year.

CHRISTOPHER ALLEN

Nowhurst Lane, Broadbridge Heath