CROYDON COMMENTARY: Opportunities for prosperity for our borough should increase if the Sussex airport’s expansion scheme goes ahead, writes DAVID CALLAM
Croydon should be jumping for joy at the prospect of a £9 billion investment in Gatwick that would add a second runway at the West Sussex airport and could increase capacity to 87 million passengers a year.
You may think I’m stretching credibility, not to mention geography, to claim money spent at Gatwick will be good for Croydon’s economy. But I think it’s in Croydon’s interests, as well as those of the airport, to strengthen the links that already exist.
The key feature is ease of access – by rail particularly. Gatwick is just 20 minutes by fast train from East Croydon and that means just half an hour and one change from areas of high unemployment like Thornton Heath, Selhurst and South Norwood. We could see thousands of Croydon’s otherwise unemployed – particularly younger people – travelling south for well-paid and secure work in hundreds of different jobs.
For the airport, south London – and Croydon in particular – is its largest and most convenient pool of available labour. The airport has taken part in jobs fairs in Croydon in the past, but that was in the “bad old days” when the dead hand of British Airports Authority discouraged initiatives at Gatwick lest they might detract from its principal London investment at Heathrow.
Expansion at Gatwick is the most likely next step in aviation provision for London and the south-east because it is the most cost-effective of all the options.
Gatwick is already the best connected of the three major airports, with a main railway line running through it that connects directly to London Bridge, St Pancras International and Victoria, via East Croydon. Once Thameslink is completed the airport will be able to offer one-change services, via Peterborough, to the north of England and Scotland.
Gatwick’s £9 billion development cost compares favourably with any of the three proposals for Heathrow (£14 billion, £17 billion and £18 billion respectively), Stansted (£30 billion), the Isle of Grain (£50 billion) or Boris Island in the Thames Estuary (£80 billion).
Gatwick is also the quickest airport expansion to deliver, estimated to be ready for service by 2023, compared with 2025 or 2026 at Heathrow (depending on the option chosen) and 2029 at Stansted or for either of the island projects.
And Gatwick is the least destructive of the existing airports, with the demolition of just 300 homes, compared with as many as 2,700 at Heathrow and 1,000 at Stansted. It is also less destructive than the Isle of Grain proposal, which would require the demolition of 2,000 homes.
Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport’s chief executive, says there is a robust and compelling case for going ahead with the plans, which can be privately financed. He believes an expansion at Gatwick is the best and most deliverable solution to London’s lack of aviation capacity.
Gatwick Airport’s plans have the support of local authorities, including West Sussex County Council and Kent County Council. They also have the support of business groups such as Sussex Enterprise and Gatwick Diamond Initiative, which includes the business community in Croydon.
Wingate said: “A two-runway Gatwick Airport, as part of a constellation of three major airports surrounding London, will provide flexibility in an industry where the only constant is change.”
This being Britain, no doubt some will beg to differ.
They will predict a tidal wave of public resistance. They will insist there is no need for any new runways in the south-east. They will argue that Stansted Airport is less than half full, that larger aircraft are coming into use and that there is sufficient airport capacity for another 30 years or more.
When asked how France built a high-speed railway line from its capital to the tunnel 10 years sooner than Britain managed to construct its link from London, former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is reported to have said: “Ah yes, but we didn’t consult the rabbits.”
If we need added runway capacity in the London area, and plenty of well-informed people believe we do, I would rather build it at Gatwick and look forward to the added prosperity that could bring to the whole of the borough of Croydon.
Previous commentaries by David Callam:
- Mayday Hospital’s care record warrants closer inspections
- Purley’s £11m hospital scheme sweeps value under the carpet
- £1.5bn Hammersfield scheme hits a planning road block
- Cultivating culture is year-round project, not just three weeks
- Busy Boris means business with £5.7m streets scheme
- Post your comments on this article below
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Gatwick to announce expansion plan (bbc.co.uk)
- Simon Jenkins: Expand Gatwick to give London another runway (standard.co.uk)