The announcement came weeks after the council seemed set to support the Northern Runway proposals, citing the need for ‘economic regeneration’ following Covid-19.
But, with Liberal Democrat and Green councillors pointing out that Gatwick’s plans fly in the face of the council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, things have changed.
The response, submitted in time for the December 1 deadline, now reads ‘strongly oppose’ rather than ‘tend to support’.
The council’s response said the case had not been made for expansion of the airport on environmental grounds ‘at this time’.
It added: “Insufficient evidence has been included for this authority to come to any other conclusion.
“It is aviation fuel that causes the most greenhouse emissions, but if green technology becomes the norm for aviation, then this authority would reconsider its objection.”
A council spokesman said: “Helping to tackle climate change is one of the council’s key priorities, and so we have objected against a second runway at Gatwick.
“It’s important that we take account of the considerable environmental impact this would have if it went ahead and so the council is in agreement that this is not something we can support.”
Adrian Moss, Liberal Democrat group leader, said “If the response had been left to the Tory cabinet, as was originally proposed, I suspect they would have supported a flawed proposal.
“Due to our councillors advocating a stronger environmental message our views were eventually listened to.”
Opinion about Gatwick’s proposal to use the stand-by runway for the departure of small planes has been consistent across the county.
Horsham District Council declared the plans would be ‘a contradiction to the climate change objectives of this council,’ while West Sussex County Council said it could not support them as it had concerns about the ‘lack of detail and supporting evidence’ provided by Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL).
Mid Sussex District Council also questioned the evidence provided, describing parts as ‘simplistic’ and ‘unreliable’.
A spokesman added: “As a consequence of GAL not actively and constructively engaging, the council’s ability to effectively respond on behalf its residents and local businesses to this consultation has been comprised.”