Comment by Observer
Jobs and prosperity are the two words most spoken of when people talk about building a second runway at Gatwick Airport.
Battle lines are being drawn nationally and locally as the time approaches for the Airports Commission to decide whether to plump for Gatwick or proposals for Heathrow.
MPs in the region, including Charles Hendry (Wealden), are opposed with the chairman of an informal group, Crispin Blunt MP (Reigate) saying a second runway for Gatwick would be a “catastrophe”.
Wealden District Council has said it does not support Gatwick expansion, saying “Heathrow options appear to have great economic benefits”.
East Sussex County Council said the Gatwick plan would bring the county an “opportunity that cannot be missed”; a decision welcomed by the association of chambers of commerce in the county.
The council said around 1,100 residents were directly employed by Gatwick, a number expected to rise to around 3,400 should a second runway be built.
Observer, like most of you, is ill-qualified to plump for either Gatwick or Heathrow but would make some general points:
- East Sussex is a low wage area. Airport jobs will tend to be better paid so there would certainly be an economic spin-off.
- Will Gatwick expansion lead to a huge increase in aircraft noise in both urban and tranquil areas?
- What are the plans to improve the infrastructure to enable the region to cope with such a big development? Can the Brighton main rail line cope? What about the A23/M23? What about the more rural roads which will inevitably become busier?
- Expansion will mean more jobs and that will inevitably attract people to this area. Where will they live? Will any new housing be properly provided for in terms of roads, schools, surgeries, hospitals etc?
It is difficult to see how such issues can be properly addressed by the Airports Commission. Its members are faced with making a recommendation of huge national strategic importance. You can hardly see them being worried if they recommend Gatwick whether there will be enough primary school places in Uckfield.
One day, though, someone will have to worry.
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