Protesters fighting proposals for a second runway at Gatwick Airport have hailed the airport bosses' consultation exhibitions as “a huge success – for the opposition.”
The Gatwick Airport Conservation Campaign (GACC), which is spearheading the drive against the second runway scheme, said Gatwick Airport Limited's (GAL) series of public consultation meetings around the area affected by the proposals, including in Crawley, East Surrey and Mid Sussex, had drawn thousands of people.
GACC said the last of the 16 public consultation exhibitions, held in Copthorne, had taken the turn-out of people attending the meetings series to more than 6,000.
But it added “the vast majority were clearly opposed to any new runway.”
GACC said its volunteers had manned a ‘picket line’ outside each exhibition, handing out leaflets and car stickers, and recruiting new members.
Referring to the end of the Copthorne consultation meeting, GACC chairman Brendon Sewill, of Stan Hill, Charlwood, said: “People were coming out of the hall horrified at what they had seen, and queuing up to join GACC.”
The group stated that at Edenbridge in Kent, the MP for Tonbridge, Sir John Stanley, organised a mass demonstration against aircraft noise and against any new runway.
At Horsham, more than 100 people marched through the town recently to protest at the new flight path over Warnham and north Horsham - currently being trialled and having sparked the formation of the Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) pressure group - and to oppose any new runway.
GACC stated that it considered the exhibitions to have been “unsatisfactory” for a number of reasons.
It said these included that the displays were designed to “sell the project, not to explain the impact,” that there was no clear explanation of how the noise would increase, and that there was no indication of how the infrastructure, including roads, rail, housing, hospitals and schools, would be able to cope with an enlarged airport.
GACC added that “a false choice was presented between three runway options, with no easy way to register a vote for no new runway.”
However, in a release, the group stated: “Nevertheless, GACC feel that the exhibitions have alerted the public and have demonstrated the strength of feeling against the proposals.
“At all the exhibitions GACC volunteers maintained a friendly relationship with the airport staff, and GACC is grateful to Gatwick for often allowing us to use the lobby of the hall where the exhibition was held.”
GAL has said feedback from the public consultation will help improve its second runway proposal to the Airports Commission. Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer of London Gatwick, said: “We are keen to encourage as many local people as possible to respond to our consultation, as this feedback will have a key role in helping us to refine our runway proposals.
“The consultation is a chance for the local community to find out more about our proposals, ask questions and have their say on our plans for a second runway.”
The consultation will run until this Friday (May 16).
People can respond and get more information at: www.gatwickairport.com/consultation