Local historians slate Gatwick second runway proposals

Local historians have said they are “appalled” at the possibility that historic buildings in Charlwood would be demolished to make way for a second runway at Gatwick.

Members of the Charlwood History Group have attacked the proposals from Gatwick Airport Limited, which are currently going through public consultation.

The group, which is part of the Charlwood Society, stated that according to the airport, 18 listed buildings would need to be demolished.

It said the total includes five buildings listed by English Heritage as Grade 2 star.

The group said the rating puts them among the 6% most important historic buildings in England.

Patrick Cox, chairman of the Charlwood Society, said if the demolition came about under the runway plans, it would be a “tragedy” for the area.

Speaking after members of Charlwood History Group visited a number of the historic buildings they said were under threat, Mr Cox said: “If this were ever to happen it would be a tragedy for our local district, and for our heritage. “We must see that it never happens.”

Forty members of the society took a tour of the area where a new runway is planned in three minibuses last Saturday (April 26).

Among the historic buildings they visited were Charlwood House, a grand Elizabethan residence, and Rowley, a residence dating from around 1200 and owned at one time by the Culpeper family, whose grand-daughter, Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, was executed when she had an alleged affair with her cousin, Thomas Culpeper.

Also on the itinerary was Hyders, now renamed the Gatwick Manor Inn, which is recorded as the home of Richard ate Hyde in 1263.

The history group admired its open hall built in the days before chimneys were invented.

The church of St Michael and All Angels, which the group said is all that remains of the village of Lowfield Heath, which was demolished in 1974 to make way for the airport, was also on the tour.

Historic Lowfield Heath Windmill was moved to Charlwood.

But Mr Cox said there was a special irony about one of the sites they visited – The Beehive, the first Gatwick terminal built in 1936 when the aerodrome had grass runways.

He said: “It is ironic that this airport building now listed as of great historic interest would be destroyed by a new runway.”

All of the buildings visited were in the Parish of Charlwood until a boundary change in 1974 moved them into Crawley.

The tour was led by local history enthusiast Brendon Sewill, who, as chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), is leading the campaign against a new runway.

The MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, was also on part of the tour.

GACC press officer Sally Pavey said that on top of the possible demolition issue, there were the further problems a second runway would cause for people living in listed buildings, but not legally allowed to use modern insulation materials to reduce aircraft noise and vibration because of them detracting from the historic value of their homes.

She said: “I live in Warnham and we cannot have all this modern insulation. When a plane comes over, it's deafening.”

She said churchgoers in historic Rusper Church were among those also affected, being unable to hear the service when a plane flew overhead.

A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said: “Should Gatwick build a second runway, we will work closely with heritage authorities on how we deal with any listed buildings which could be affected. “This will include exploring options to incorporate buildings within the development options or relocating them to new sites.”

People can respond, get more information and find the full details of the current public consultation exercise at: www.gatwickairport.com/consultation

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