County council cannot support airport’s Northern Runway plans but ‘isn’t anti-Gatwick’

West Sussex County Council has declared that it cannot support plans to bring Gatwick’s emergency runway into full-time use.

Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) hopes to use the runway – known as the Northern Runway – for the departure of smaller aircraft and is running a public consultation into the plans.

During a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday (November 16), members discussed the council’s response to the consultation, which raised concerns about the ‘lack of detail and supporting evidence’ provided by GAL.

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Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for environment & climate change, provided a list of areas which she said needed to be addressed.

Gatwick Airport. Pic by S Robards

These included health and wellbeing issues such as air and noise pollution, the type and number of jobs that were expected to be created, the passenger numbers and economic benefits being forecast, the housing and infrastructure needed, and the impact on climate change, emissions, the natural environment, habitats and biodiversity in the area.

Lee Harris, executive director for place services, told the meeting that the consultation process had not been easy for the council as there had been ‘little pre-engagement’ by GAL and some of the information provided was ‘incomplete’.

Bob Lanzer (Con, Maidenbower & Worth) added: “We’re in a position where what we know and, equally, what we don’t know means we cannot support the Northern Runway Project as things stand today.

“But we will continue our engagement with GAL.”

Despite their inability to support the proposals, councillors stressed this did not mean they were ‘anti-Gatwick’.

Duncan Crow (Con, Tilgate & Furnace Green) said: “I support Gatwick, I want Gatwick to be successful – and I think I speak for all of us when I say that.

“But that does not mean we should give a blank cheque to support all additional expansion.”

Mr Crow referred to the fact Crawley cannot meet the housing targets laid down by the government – an issue not helped by the safeguarding of land south of the airport for possible expansion.

This in turn puts pressure on Horsham and Mid Sussex as they have to help pick up the slack.

Pointing out that expansion at Gatwick would ‘exacerbate all those pressures’, he added: “It would not benefit many local people to have those pressures added to.

“So I think it is right that we continue our constructive dialogue with Gatwick and see how things progress.

“I’m very keen that we don’t send out the wrong message that we’re anti-Gatwick, because we are not.”