Expansion at Gatwick or Heathrow?

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Gatwick A Plans - Translucent - 3

Wealden MP Charles Hendry has expressed his surprise at the remarks made by the CEO of Gatwick Airport in light of the Davies Commissions’ decision to rule out the Thames Estuary airport proposal.

Sir Howard Davies yesterday officially ruled-out the Thames Estuary Airport proposal from his deliberations, leaving just Gatwick and Heathrow under consideration.

Set-up in 2012, the Commission is due to report back to the Government with its final recommendation next summer.  Seen as a political ‘hot potato’, airport expansion will not be resolved until after the next general election in May 2015.

This recommendation will now be one of three remaining shortlisted options.  Two of these concern Heathrow whilst the other proposes building a new runway at Gatwick Airport.

In response to this decision, Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, said:

This is an important juncture in the aviation debate because now Britain’s choice is clear; expand Gatwick and support genuine competition, lower fares and greater choice for passengers or expand Heathrow and return to the stale monopoly of the past and watch the cost of going on holiday, travelling for business and exporting goods and service go up.

We believe Gatwick has the strongest case. It is the only option left on the table that can be delivered with more certainty than either of the Heathrow options, and it can be delivered without the significant environmental impacts expansion at Heathrow would inflict on London. It can be delivered faster than any other option, and at low cost and low risk.

Furthermore, expanding Gatwick will ensure the UK is served by two successful world class airports. It can liberate hub capacity at Heathrow and open up the opportunities for affordable long haul travel to emerging markets for the benefit of everyone, made possible by new generation of aircraft such as the Dreamliner.

Charles Hendry, MP for Wealden commented:

It is very disappointing to see this lack of foresight and enterprise from the Davies Commission.

Inevitably this decision has reinvigorated the debate around the remaining three options. Today’s statement from Gatwick shows that they are not concerned about the effect expansion of Gatwick would have on communities around the airport, such as my constituents in Wealden.

He acknowledges the ‘significant environmental impacts expansion at Heathrow would inflict in London’, but he does not even mention the impact on Sussex residents. Not only is there insufficient infrastructure surrounding Gatwick but nor is there the workforce, or the schools, or the hospitals.

It is extraordinary after a summer when we have seen a deluge of complaints about the huge increase in airport noise from Gatwick that the airport’s management should simply disregard these concerns and problems.

The airport’s actions this summer will inevitably destroy what local support there has been for the expansion of Gatwick which is increasingly seen locally as ‘Obviously not’ the answer.

Mr Hendry will not be standing for re-election in May.  The Conservative Candidate will be

Nus Ghani Tory PPC for Wealden
Nus Ghani Tory PPC for Wealden

Nus Ghani, who was selected as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PCC) for the Conservative Party at an open primary last December.  At this stage it is unclear whether she agrees with Mr Hendry on the subject of airport expansion in the south east.

The only other PCC to have been selected for the Wealden Constituency from the major parties is Peter Griffiths for UKIP.

Peter Griffiths told CrowboroughLife:

Peter Griffiths
Peter Griffiths, UKIP candidate for MP

As an ex airline pilot, I have operated into [Heathrow] LHR and Gatwick and both have their limitations.  There is no doubt that Gatwick’s operations are constrained by the single runway and as a consequence, it handles slightly less than half the passengers of LHR.   LHR is hedged in by development and the M4 and M25 Motorways.  There is little room for a new runway without large scale demolition of houses and businesses.

The Davies Commission has a difficult and intricate job, but politically, its Report has been carefully timed to be published after the General Election, to avoid the inevitable backlash from the residents of whichever scheme was recommended.  Whichever site is chosen, there will be objections from the surrounding population and attempts to force a judicial review.

For the benefit of the residents of the site chosen, the flight paths must be varied and the noise limits adhered to.  Swinging fines should be levied on airlines exceeding the limits or straying off track.  Gatwick has a moratorium on any new runway until 2019.  If it is chosen, the authorities should use that time to insist that airlines using it bring their aircraft up to the most modern standards of noise suppression.  Both airport owners are eager to be the chosen site.  When big business wants something, there is a tendency to ride roughshod over the rights and concerns of anyone in their way.  Certainly, the Gatwick owners have shown insensitivity in their comments about the Commissions deliberations, but it must be up to the Government to ensure that the concerns of the surrounding population are given due consideration by the Commission and whichever owner wins the bidding.

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