Former music band member Council Leader Tony Newman has got the blues over the rejection of Gatwick for the third runway in favour of Heathrow. He has promised to fight against the Government’s decision.
Not everyone will be backing him and will be delighted that Gatwick has been rejected. For many of these yesterday was a sad day in that the Government did not reject the three alternatives.
In its submission on the Local Plan Partial Review consultation last autumn the Croydon Assembly Environment Forum, whose members are involved in a range of green and environment groups in the Borough, argued for the deletion of the commitment to the expansion of Gatwick.
‘The Forum is opposed to the expansion of London’s airports. It proposes that in line with the Council’s commitment to reduce air pollution and improve sustainable transport the Council should delete Strategic Policy SP8.2.
As Greenpeace commented when the Davies Report was published, the topic of carbon emissions was largely absent from the report. Where it was addressed, it is with calls for marginal improvements such as increasing airport charges for older aircraft and mandating “green slots” under which less polluting aircraft take up the new capacity. No doubt aware of this deficiency in his own report, Davies himself wrote to Lord Deben of the Climate Change Committee after the report had been published pointing to the need for “a more significant package of measures” and tentatively suggesting a huge increase in the carbon price, which would presumably obviate the need for a new runway in the first place, and the pipe dream of bio fuels to replace aviation oil. We are not aware that Lord Deben has come up with the desired package – hardly surprising as no such a package exists. What Davies had overlooked was that much of the need for more capacity arises not from “business” flying but for leisure flying, predominately by the wealthiest 10% of the population. Thus 15% of the British population who flew three or more times last year accounted for 70% of all flights, while more than half the UK population took no flights at
all. A better way to address the capacity problem would be to introduce a progressive tax, and eventually perhaps even rationing, on the number of flights individuals take, not providing more and more runways.
It now appears that the Davies Commission downplayed the increased risk of air crashes at both Heathrow and Gatwick if the capacity of have more planes flying in and out is increased.’
The Council’s support for Gatwick also posed economic dangers for the Borough. In its report to the Council on the Growth Plan in 2014 a Croydon TUC Working Party explained that it was ‘not as optimistic as the Council when the latter says ‘The expansion of Gatwick Airport is strengthening Croydon’s competitive advantage and this will accelerate if a second runway is built at Gatwick.’ The move of Nestle from Central Croydon to the Gatwick Airport area shows the potential negative effect.’
It argued that it was ‘therefore vital that the Council plays its full role in the Coast to Capital Local Economic Partnership in order to know the detail of what is happening at Gatwick and elsewhere which could pose a threat to Croydon’s economy, as well as seeking to ensure that Croydon benefits from funding channelled through the Partnership.’ However it drew attention to the way in which the partnership was structured meaning that the ‘ability of the Croydon representative to influence decisions will therefore be very weak.’
Implications for the Croydon Local Plan
The Government decision poses an interesting dilemma for the Council at next year’s Local Plan Inquiry, as the Inspector may decide that inclusion of the Policy should be deleted because it has been made irrelevant by the Government decision. Or he may feel that it should be deleted as a Policy and only included in commentary as a possibility in case the final decision means Heathrow does not proceed.