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County Council votes to support in principle expansion of Gatwick Airport on economic grounds

Date: 19 July 2013
Press release number: PR5585

West Sussex County Council has voted to support in principle the expansion of Gatwick Airport on economic grounds.

A notice of motion went in before the full Council meeting today (Friday) and was approved by 42 votes to 10 with 12 abstentions.

The debate took place with Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) due to lodge its proposals with the Government’s Airports Commission, which are expected to include a second runway.

The motion from Pieter Montyn, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said:

"This Council supports a vibrant, growing economy and the Government’s drive for growth for the future economic prosperity of the country.

"Gatwick Airport Limited has recently given a clear indication of its intent to publish details of proposals submitted to the independent Airports Commission for future expansion of the airport’s capacity, including the addition of a second runway.

"This Council, in principle, supports such proposal as conducive to economic growth and prosperity in West Sussex, and is equally cognisant of the environmental and infrastructure issues that may arise from a future increase in airport capacity.

"The County Council therefore asks the Leader and Cabinet to exercise influence and pressure in supporting such expansion at Gatwick Airport whilst having due regard to the potential environmental and infrastructure issues and, where possible, to take a lead in addressing these issues and securing benefits for the communities in the county."

County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith, who voted for the motion, said:

“The County Council has always been crystal clear that a decision on whether there should be a second runway at Gatwick would be taken after balancing the economic benefits against the needs of the environment.

“With the formal bid being made today by Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) to the Airports Commission for expansion with a second runway, the time has now come to set out the Council’s view, and we felt it important to debate the issue.

“I do firmly believe that on balance there are compelling economic arguments for a second runway because of the benefits to everyone in West Sussex.

“There is a clear need for long term, sustainable business growth in order to protect the local economy, and create new jobs.

“Airport expansion at Gatwick would help many companies grow and expand, as well as creating new opportunities.

“The economy is a major priority for the Council, and there is a need to support investment in new infrastructure and business growth, particularly at a time of growing national and international competition.

“Airport expansion will not just benefit the immediate area around Gatwick, but everyone in the county.

“Changes in the way that councils are funded mean that in future the essential local services residents depend on will be linked to income generated by business rates.

“That increases the importance of having a strong, sustainable local economy in West Sussex for the entire population.

“I am glad we have had this debate because although the County Council is not the planning authority for an application on this scale, we do want to be in the best possible position to lobby hard and relentlessly over such things as environmental protection, and for improved infrastructure including road and rail connections.

“In particular we want to see measures to encourage passengers to use public transport on journeys to and from the airport.

“We will also press for a detailed environmental impact assessment of any runway proposals and for the Government and GAL to look at what can be done to minimise the impact of any development in terms of noise and air quality.

“I do believe that the County Council’s decision will be good for the county and the country.

“In the meantime the 1979 agreement between the County Council and the British Airports Authority – owners of the airport at the time – which prevents any start of construction of a second runway at Gatwick before August 2019 remains in force. GAL is committed to this.”

There are further details on the Aviation pages, including an email address that people can use to comment on the issue.

A webcast replay of today’s debate can also be viewed on the council’s website.

The County Council is no longer the relevant planning authority and would not decide any application for an additional runway.

Any such application is likely to be handled by the Government’s Major Infrastructure Planning Unit which sits within the Planning Inspectorate.

It will administer any application before advising the relevant Government Minister who would make a final decision.

The Airports Commission is due to issue an initial report by the end of 2013, which will include options for further investigation for increasing airport capacity with a final report in the summer of 2015.

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