Campaigners hope West Sussex County Council’s decision to oppose a further runway at Gatwick Airport might persuade East Sussex to reconsider its support.
West Sussex councillors voted by 37 to 26 to reverse a decision to support the airport’s expansion. Kent County Council voiced its opposition in November.
Both councils had taken account of the views of hundreds of residents who said noise from incoming and outgoing aircraft had already increased significantly. And their concerns also focused on changes to inbound flightpaths which would stream aircraft in on a single ‘highway in the sky’ instead of approaching the airport from a number of different directions.
This would intensify noise for communities living below the path - roughly northbound from the coast towards Heathfield, Crowborough, the Ashdown Forest and villages on the Kent-Sussex border.
Gatwick Airport said it was disappointed by the council’s decision. The proposed second runway at Gatwick is being considered by the Airports Commission which is expected to make its final recommendation later this year.
Gatwick said it believes expansion would bring a huge boost for the local economy, including thousands of jobs. A spokesman said: “We will continue to work closely with West Sussex County Council to illustrate the benefits expansion will deliver. Gatwick is doing as much as possible to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on local residents.”
Other options for airport expansion in the South East include a third runway at Heathrow or extension to one of the Heathrow runways.
WSCC member Pieter Montyn said: “Councillors believed Gatwick has not, to date, put forward sufficient evidence to counter the very serious environmental and noise fears of local residents.”
This view is upheld by Crowborough campaigner Dominic Nevill who heads pressure group East Sussex Communities for Control of Air Noise (ESCCAN.)
He said: “It’s interesting as West Sussex would gain at least ten times the benefits of East Sussex in terms of jobs and economic activity. At present our council is still supporting the new runway. They are now completely isolated. They have not shown us any proof as to exactly what the economic benefits would be. It is reasonable to expact facts and figures from them indicating precisely what we would stand to gain.”
An ESCC spokesperson said the council believes this option supports the delivery of the council’s key priority of long term economic growth for East Sussex.