West Sussex County Council agreed its official response to the Airports Commission’s consultation expressing ‘serious concerns’ about the implications of a second runway at Gatwick yesterday (Monday January 19).
At a special Full Council meeting councillors almost unanimously approved the 20-page document which lists the improvements it believes need to be made before any proposal to expand the airport is submitted to Government.
Sir Howard Davies is leading the Airports Commission into airport capacity in the South East and is expected to make a recommendation to central Government later this year, with both Gatwick and Heathrow bidding to be selected for expansion.
The decision was followed by a debate on whether or not the county council should approve a motion expressing ‘its opposition to a new runway to expand Gatwick Airport’, which was passed by 37 to 26 votes with four abstentions.
Pieter Montyn, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The issue of a second runway at Gatwick is an extremely emotive subject and that played out at today’s meeting.
“It was only right that all members of West Sussex County Council were given the opportunity to debate and put forward their views, and those of their residents as well. That’s democracy.
“In terms of the response to the consultation, the Airports Commission at no point asked respondents whether or not they agree that an additional runway is needed. Nor does it ask us whether we have a preference as to where additional capacity should be provided.
“It asks us to comment on the methodology and evidence base of the Airports Commission’s initial assessments, and to put forward improvements that we believe should be made. Our response contains a raft of improvements that we believe need to be made by both Gatwick and the government.”
According to the county council its position opposing expansion will not form part of its response to the consultation.
Mr Montyn added: “Councillors believed that Gatwick has not, to date, put forward sufficient evidence to counter the very serious environmental and noise fears of local residents and so voted to now oppose expansion.
“However, irrespective of our position, our role now is to start planning for the future. The decision about the runway will be made by government so we have a responsibility and duty to plan for either scenario – second runway at Gatwick or not. This is what we will continue to do that with our district and borough colleagues to ensure West Sussex gets the best deal it can.”
The consultation response will now be sent to the Airports Commission for consideration.
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