I was initially disappointed with the decision last week to delay the announcement of where a new runway would be situated - either a third at Heathrow or a second at Gatwick - but on reflection the delay serves to highlight Gatwick’s strongest claim for expansion - it’s deliverable.
The delay is to allow time for further environmental impact assessments to be carried out before a final decision is made, now expected next summer.
This has been called for by the Environmental Audit Committee in Parliament of which I am a member. Much has been made of the Davies Commission’s recommendation in favour of Heathrow but very little said about the whole host of recommendations attached to whether Heathrow will accept them.
That may well mean the Heathrow proposal can’t go ahead. The Heathrow scheme has been stalling for years, and is unlikely to ever get off the ground, and if there were to be even more scrutiny over environmental concerns, it will be harder still to achieve the standards required.
It’s well known that I favour Gatwick - I have been campaigning for this since I was a borough councillor on Eastbourne Borough Council, and much to the frustration of many, including some on my own side in Parliament, I am still firmly of the belief that Gatwick is by far the best solution. On noise, air quality, deliverability, cost and time - it all points to Gatwick as the better solution. For a tourist town like Eastbourne, with ambitions for a new conference centre, transport links are vital.
I recently delivered a letter directly into the hands of the Prime Minister, copied to the Chancellor and Transport Secretary arguing for the decision for Gatwick. The letter was from ACES, the Association of Chambers of Commerce in East Sussex, who represent some 4000 businesses in the area. Business in the area wants it; it will deliver enormous benefits in terms of jobs for our area, as well as procurement of products and services during the construction stage and on an ongoing basis. Gatwick is much cheaper to deliver, and doesn’t have a need for public funding, compared with Heathrow. It also stays within EU air quality limits even following expansion and fewer people will be affected by noise.
So a delay is a frustration, and it will be fascinating to see the outcome. I am still fighting for Gatwick! I’d be interested in any thoughts you have, and you can as always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
PICTURED: Caroline Ansell with Stuart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport