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Too many unanswered questions make Gatwick obviously not the right choice

3 min read

Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate & Chair of the Gatwick Coordination Group raises some clear objections to the Gatwick bid. He states that the rival Heathrow bid will offer more new jobs and be a better option for the UK economy

While Sir Howard Davies’s Airports Commission deliberates, the public debate about where Britain’s extra runway capacity should be built goes on.

Missing from the debate has been a sense of what is really at stake in the decision. A view has been taken, cultivated by Gatwick, that the choice is about how one runway will solve our aviation crisis and that it doesn’t matter where it’s put. That’s wrong: the Airports Commission has already analysed that the economic benefit to the UK economy of developing Gatwick could be up to £100bn less than the Heathrow options - no small change when taking a national decision for the national economy.

The Airports Commission’s brief is about how best to serve the national interest. The numbers speak volumes: Heathrow offering four times the jobs, spread across the UK, and twice the GDP.

Whilst the national interest favours Heathrow hands down, locally, the impact of a new runway at Gatwick cannot be justified either. So, another runway at Gatwick would not solve the country’s capacity crisis, nor generate the scale of benefits locally or nationally compared to other options.

In the debate, Gatwick talk about the importance of trust. Yet, they have eroded trust by refusing countless times to speak to the local public about the impact of expansion on surrounding communities, while this week senior representatives found time to attend political events organised by local politicians around Heathrow.

The campaign being waged by Gatwick suggests that it would be easier to expand Gatwick, but in reality there are huge question marks hanging over the Gatwick plans, such as:

- How can the airport hope to find a sufficient workforce, both on-site and the related jobs, of over 120,000 more jobs (the population of Cambridge) centred on or located at Gatwick when there are only 23,000 jobseekers in a very wide travel to work region around Gatwick today? Tens of thousands of workers would have to move from outside the region, adding to the already severe housing and infrastructure pressures. Regional housing forecasts are already undeliverable without loss of Greenbelt.

- What possible resilience could there be in the transport links to Gatwick when there is only one rail link, the Brighton Mainline, already the busiest commuter line in the country, no new track, and the roads (A23/M23/M25) from London are already beyond capacity?

- What guarantee is there that Gatwick’s overseas owners would ever invest in their project when their commercial objectives would be well-served simply by stopping Heathrow?

- What faith can we have that this investment would be made when their business calculations are kept secret from the public? Even Gatwick’s biggest customer, Easyjet, isn’t convinced and favours Heathrow.

Gatwick obviously cannot answer these major questions around infrastructure and transport links, environmental impact, economic case and deliverability. With questions unanswered, the scale of opposition growing and a decision in the best interests of the whole nation demanded, we are urging Sir Howard and his Commission to ground, and bury, the Gatwick bid.

Crispin Blunt is MP for Reigate & Chair of the Gatwick Coordination Group - set up to bring together Members of Parliament neighbouring Gatwick Airport as well as other elected representatives and civil society.

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