Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Debate on Gatwick

Whilst the majority of time at the County Council is spent ensuring we deliver on policies and ensuring good, value for money services, occasionally something very big occurs to which the County Council has to respond to.

A 40-year agreement was signed with Gatwick Airport, West Sussex County Council and the Government that there would be no second runway at Gatwick before 2019.

Much has changed over the decades, and in particular the world has opened up to so many more people through flying both short and long haul. Where once flying was seen as something special, for most it is now routine.

Gatwick has expanded and has become the busiest single runway in the world. It is true to say that it has additional capacity on a single runway, but as 2019 draws ever closer then so does the focus of whether there should be a second runway.

The County Council is no longer the Strategic Planning Authority and will have no say on the decision on whether it happens or not, that's down to the Government, although as the local highway authority we would be involved in any consultation. But we will be expected to have an opinion.

Last year the Government announced a Commission on airport expansion  headed up by Sir Howard Davies, which has started the debate about Gatwick.

However the legal agreement I mentioned earlier holds good until 2019.

There has been much talk about Boris Island, Heathrow and Gatwick, and on 19 July, all airports were asked to put in their submissions. This is just the first stage of the process, followed by shortlisting next year and a final decision by Government probably in 2016.

Obviously we have taken a great interest in this issue as in so many ways it will have a big impact on the county. There have been a range of consultations including an economic study and a joint study on Attitude to Air Travel, all available on our website.

On 19 July at Full County Council, this issue was debated as a Notice of Motion. You can see the debate on the webcast of the meeting. It was a very good debate with a range of comments.

Some views were expressed that this was rushed without adequate notice, partly because of information available to us, however this is an 'in principle decision' as the motion made clear, and the full text can also be seen on the website.

I understand and respect that for people living in the affected area there are serious concerns about the environment, air quality and noise, as well as improving infrastructure and public transport. The County Council's position is that we need to be pressing hard on these issues whilst supporting our economy, as there would be a serious impact on the West Sussex economy and jobs if airport expansion is allocated elsewhere.

Being at the table negotiating is more productive than making a loud noise on the sidelines which was part of the aim of the Notice of Motion which was passed on Friday, and we now have the support of the County Council to do just that as we move onto the next phase of monitoring and being involved in the work of the Commission.

Best wishes,

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