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Thousands of businesses back Gatwick expansion proposals
12:33pm Tuesday 1st October 2013 in Local News
Thousands of businesses located around Gatwick Airport have voiced their support for plans to expand Britain’s second busiest airport.
Rosemary French, executive director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative (GDI) business forum, has written to the chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies, on behalf of 100 individual businesses and 12 business membership organisations, representing 5,500 businesses and neighbouring areas, backing the Gatwick Airport submission.
The proposal argues the South-east will be best served in the future by the region's three airports - Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted - having two runways.
Ms French said: “Expansion at Gatwick with a second runway, alongside the maintenance of Heathrow as a two-runway airport, is the best next step in aviation provision for London and the South-east, because it is the most cost-effective of all the options, does not use public money, and the environmental implications are smaller.”
She said: “It will also result in considerable job creation, the airport is already the best connected to London, the South-east and the rest of the UK by rail and road, and the second runway can be built quickly.”
The Gatwick Diamond economy that has grown around a 20-mile perimeter of the airport is currently made up 38,000 businesses, which contribute £19 billion Gross Value Added (GVA), and has an economically active population of 406,000.
Flagging up the proximity of Gatwick to the capital and its international connectivity, the GDI said the area has attracted around 500 internationally-owned businesses - many of them global brands with UK or European headquarters, such as Nestle, Canon, ExxonMobil, Toyota, Siemens, Sony, and Novartis.
Regarding the environmental implications of expanding Gatwick, Ms French said: “We believe that the environmental blight that a third runway at Heathrow will bring to London communities is wholly unnecessary when a second runway could be built at Gatwick with far less environmental, noise and air pollution impact.
“Gatwick already handles 9,233 passengers for every person affected by noise, compared to 261 passengers handled by Heathrow, according to the Airports Commission’s own report.
“That means that Heathrow is already 35.3 times noisier than Gatwick.”
She continued: “The over-all number of people affected by noise with a second runway at Gatwick will still be equivalent to only 5% of the people that Heathrow impacts today, never mind how many will be affected in the future if Heathrow is expanded.”
The Gatwick Airport submission has stated 19,000 jobs will be created as a result of a second runway.
However, the GDI has said that its research suggests the impact of expansion could mean as many as 40,000 jobs could be created by 2030.
Gatwick Diamond businesses also argue that the airport is the best connected airport in the UK with the fastest rail route to London.
Ms French added: “Gatwick has a main railway line running through it that connects directly to London Bridge, St Pancras International and Victoria, as well as south to Brighton and the coast.
“In total, 120 railway stations can be directly reached from the airport, compared to six from Heathrow and 35 from Stansted, and once Thameslink is completed, Gatwick will offer one-change services, via Peterborough, to the North.”
She concluded: “An expanded Gatwick Airport would be a catalyst to bring further improvements to the area with faster, more efficient public transport and surface access infrastructure, enabling employees to be attracted from neighbouring communities in London, Kent, West Surrey and East Sussex.”
However, Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), which has as members about 100 borough, district and parish councils, covering about a 20-mile radius from the airport, and which is dead-set against the expansion proposals, said: “We very much doubt if these big business associations really reflect the view of all their members, certainly not once local firms realise the full impact of a new runway.”
Mr Sewill of Stan Hill, Charlwood, said: “When local firms realise that what is planned is an airport larger than Heathrow, creating far more jobs than available locally, creating also a serious shortage of labour, probably a rise in pay rates which could put local firms out of business, and the need for around 40,000 new houses, serious congestion on roads and railways, and serious overcrowding at schools and hospitals, we guess they will withdraw their support.” Mr Sewill continued: “Because there would be a need for around 40,000 families to move into the area, according to research commissioned by Gatwick Diamond themselves, most of the extra money would go to these new families, not to families at present living in this area. “GACC does not believe that business interests, closely allied to the commercial interests of Gatwick Airport Limited, should be allowed to make life worse for the great majority of local people, and destroy the countryside of Surrey and Sussex.”