Within the next fortnight Sir Howard Davies is due to publish his report on airport capacity, putting forward his recommendation as to where the UK would gain the most benefit from a new runway.
The debate around airport expansion has a long history and this is unlikely to be the end of it, for one thing it is up to the Government to take a final decision on runway location. With a majority of only 12 and many MPs around both Heathrow and Gatwick who oppose expansion, the Government may choose to kick the issue into the long grass in order to avoid the risk of backbench rebellion.
Even if Heathrow is selected as the priority for expansion, it’s likely that Davies will say a further runway is be needed by 2050 and Gatwick would be the clear frontrunner.
Whichever option is eventually progressed, Heathrow or Gatwick, will have a major long-term impact upon the town and as a council we have to work to maximise the positives and minimise the negatives of the hand we’re dealt.
Local authorities haven’t stood still on this. Crawley has been working with the county council and neighbouring authorities to identify challenges posed by expansion, model the impacts and plan the best means of response.
On Monday, I, along with other council leaders, met with the Aviation Minister to stress the main issues around airport expansion and press the case for the investment the area needs both if the new runway is or is not built at Gatwick. With a commitment from the Government to maintain a dialogue with authorities on airport expansion, we will continue to push in the run-up and the aftermath of the Government’s decision.
We cannot know for certain what Crawley’s future looks like, but we do know that the airport will continue to play a major role in it. All we can do is plan and prepare for all likely eventualities. When it comes to Gatwick the council is working hard to ensure we are ready to deal with the consequences of a decision, whenever that decision eventually comes.