The Government made a statement Monday reacting to the Davies Commission on Airport Expansion. For many local residents it means an ongoing nightmare of “not knowing”: the prospect of a second runway at Gatwick still hangs over our area.
The Davies Commission was established to “take the politics out” of the decision on airport expansion. The Commission worked hard over several years, at a cost of £20m, to produce an extremely authoritative report. The report contained a strong and unanimous recommendation – for the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
I am therefore very disappointed that the Government has delayed a final decision until the summer. To my mind the arguments for Heathrow are so overwhelming that keeping available a sub-optimal choice of Gatwick, blighting local communities, is hugely unfair. The recommendation was clear and we should have got on with it.
That sentiment was echoed right across the House of Commons not just from Sussex but from around the UK as MPs made clear their frustration with further delay – as have many groups representing industry and exporters.
However given that the Government has delayed its decision in order to study “Air Quality” it is important they do so properly.
Heathrow’s issues with air quality relate especially to car emissions (not helped by its proximity to the M4 and M25). However Heathrow has far more effective public transport links than Gatwick (over 8m more people are within 2hrs of Heathrow by public transport than Gatwick). Heathrow benefits from four main rail links. Gatwick has one rail link which as so many readers are unfortunately aware is one of the least reliable in the country.
Either new runway will require tens of thousands of new employees. Heathrow has them on its doorstep, Gatwick doesn’t: they would have to travel long distances to get to their place of work. So if the Government must look again at Air Quality its work has to recognise that Gatwick with a second runway would be busier than Heathrow is today but will be vastly more dependent on cars – with all that flows from that for local residents.