After approving its draft response to the Airports Commission, councillors voted by a margin of 37 to 26 against the authority’s leadership in favour of a motion expressing ‘its opposition to a new runway to expand Gatwick Airport’.
Conservative Peter Griffiths put forward the motion as an amendment to one put forward by fellow Tory Bill Acraman, 18 months after the county council voted to support a second runway ‘in principle’ subject to environmental considerations.
Some supported expansion at Gatwick due to potential economic benefits, but the majority raised serious concerns about the current state of West Sussex’s infrastructure.
Brendon Sewill, chair of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, hailed the decision as a ‘victory for common sense and West Sussex residents’, while Sally Pavey, chair of Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, spoke of her ‘delight’ at councillors ‘listening to the facts’.
Roger Smith, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Sussex branch, said: “This most welcome conclusion to an informed debate recognises that a second runway at Gatwick would result in unacceptable harm to the environment and to communities that would not outweigh any economic benefit.”
During the meeting Mr Griffiths (Con, Hurstpierpoint & Bolney) questioned the area’s ability to cope with the amount of new homes needed if Gatwick was selected for expansion.
He added: “The business case does not stack up. There are no community benefits clearly defined.”
Some spoke in support of a second runway as a vehicle for growth in West Sussex, and its potential to bring skilled jobs to the area, especially for young people.
But many argued expansion at Gatwick on that scale would have a ‘devastating impact’ on West Sussex.
Earlier in the meeting county councillors almost unanimously agreed its 20-page response to the Airports Commission’s current consultation, in which it expressed ‘serious concerns about the implications for West Sussex and its communities and that these have not been satisfactorily answered’, but resolved to maintain a constructive relationship with all partners, including Gatwick Airport.