Now we have to try and persuade West Sussex to change their mind.
By this Monday, 19th January.
I told you January would be busy.
We are, after all, trying to stop the offshore face of capitalism from rampant acquisition of our skies.
While at the same time trying to tweak Government policy to ensure the operators and regulators don't interpret that policy to suit their own ends, resulting in the creation of noise ghettos and an environmental persecution of the minorities below under the new 'superhighways'.
West Sussex County Council has decided to hold a fresh debate about Gatwick's second runway, having previously supported its application.
Of course, Gatwick sits in the County and WSCC have a very significant part to play in determining whether Gatwick is successful – or not.
We've just written to all the WSCC Councillors, as below.
We've set up a 1-click email you can send that goes to all of them, too, with the subject title 'Gatwick: It's about trust'
By doing so, you are saying you support what we have written below.
Or, if that pre-formatted email does not work correctly, you can cut and paste the text below into your own email:
14th January 2014
Dear West Sussex County Cllr's
Gatwick: It's about trust.
To help inform your debate on the 19th, may I lay just 2 of the arguments before you, using other people's words as evidence.
We would like you to oppose Gatwick's desire for a second runway.
1. The Economic Argument
There will unquestionably be an economic benefit to Gatwick obtaining permission to build a second runway – for Gatwick.
An offshore company, 100% foreign-owned, they have not paid any UK Corporation Tax for years, yet somehow manage to pay themselves dividends via their complex financial structure. If given permission, the investment fund controlling Gatwick (Global Investment Partners, with a consortium of co-investors including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the National Pension Service of Korea) will sell the asset in 2019.
I'm not sure we can necessarily trust these distant owners to truly have the best environmental, noise or indeed economic interests of your constituents at heart. Are you?
In terms of Gatwick's financial transparency, Sir John Stanley, MP had these strong words to say on 18th December in the House of Commons. He sent me a copy of his speech:
"I consider that Gatwick Airport Ltd has failed - and failed scandalously - to be open and transparent about the financial evaluation of its project"
Given that he could not obtain any specifics from Gatwick, he quoted from the Howard Davies report:
"It is likely that Government will need to fund some or all of the surface access requirements"
Sir John continued in his speech:
"Gatwick Airport Ltd is simply seeking a blank cheque from UK taxpayers"
and concluded, as with our header, as follows:
"On the grounds that Gatwick Airport Ltd has totally failed to be transparent about its financial evaluation, and has concealed the public expenditure implications of the infrastructure needed for a second runway, its proposal should be rejected by the Airports Commission"
Concealment of public expenditure implications? Could his language be any stronger?
Is this a company we should trust to sell us a second hand car, let alone be handed the keys to second runway?
What 'concealed public expenditure requirements' could there be for West Sussex, I wonder?
2. Flight Path Changes
There is widespread anger throughout West Kent, East Sussex and of course in West Sussex at the changes introduced to flight paths last summer. Anger that turned to fury when Stewart Wingate, Gatwick's CEO, stated on many occasions that nothing had changed. For example:
"the impression may be that something has changed, although I can assure you nothing has …"
(Stewart Wingate to Charles Hendry MP, 18th July 2014)
"There has not been any trial of a 'Superhighway' on our westerly approaches and we are not planning any trials."
28th August 2014
The noise complaints to Gatwick went from 2,296 in 2013 to 16,910 in 2014.
(This is 'year to date' and up to and including the 3rd quarter.
Thousands of people couldn't be wrong - and indeed they were not. In a humiliating rejoinder to Gatwick, the CAA finally admitted on 5th December that the following had indeed taken place:
'The air traffic controllers tried out revised vectoring practices between the hold and landing at Gatwick … Air traffic controllers were trialling, or trying out, some new vectoring choices to see what effect they would have'
(Andrew Haines, CAA CEO to Cllr Richard Streatfeild MBE, Chair, High Weald Group)
The CAA called them 'revised vectoring choices'. We - and those underneath them who had no 'choice' about the ensuing infliction of almost constant noise - know them better as 'revised flight paths' and the 'effect' was that thousands of people suffered an appalling summer – witness the complaints.
What they finally admitted to – in black and white - was moving the point where planes join the 'final approach' from 7-12 nautical miles to 10-12 nautical miles from the airport. Or squashing more planes then ever before into less than half the space.
Sounds like a change to me.
Even Howard Davies agreed, very publicly, that flight path changes have taken place, despite what Gatwick say:
"4.19 The Commission has noted that recent trials of revised flight paths at Gatwick have met with considerable public opposition."
And your fellow Cllr's in Kent have changed their minds recently. This is Paul Carter, CBE, KCC's Leader, just before Christmas:
"Changes in Gatwick flight paths have prompted Kent County Council to withdraw its support for a second runway at the West Sussex airport”.
…the new flight paths had made life intolerable for people … What has changed big time is that the National Air Traffic Control have started to implement changes in flight paths …"
You may ask why does the 'flight path' issue matter so much now, in terms of the second runway?
Well, for two very important reasons:
a. Gatwick proudly boast of achieving 55 landings per hour at times in 2014. To do this, they need to cram more and more planes into the flight path arrivals 'arc'.
This arc then has to inevitably get longer and move further from the airport to accommodate the planes.
Any accepted change to airspace needs a time-consuming, formal, expensive and risky procedure including a Consultation with - Heaven forefend - the public. If any change can be denied, this process can be avoided.
b. Gatwick need to demonstrate to people like you that there is room in the skies for a 2nd flight path for the second runway. What better way to do this than for the existing 'broad swathe' flight path to be narrowed, shoved over a bit and hey-presto, they can say there's plenty of space to wham in a second path of misery for those below.
Gatwick may tell you that they are only following government policy (tricky obviously because they deny there has been any change …).
Government policy is to 'limit and, where possible to reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise'
However it explicitly does not state that all flights for any given route should be concentrated over a narrow 500m width, leading to the inevitable persecution of the minorities below.
I discussed this very issue at the Department for Transport in November, following which the Secretary of State, The Rt. Hon. Patrick McLoughlin wrote to me advising:
'… in the meeting you made some strong points on what we recognise is a complex issue which needs to be considered further. I wish to assure you that officials are looking into the question of concentration versus dispersal …'
(please see www.gatwickobviouslynot.org for the full letter)
The real-time result of these changes? Zero respite and ever-lowering planes:
Given the flight path is both 25% narrower (as demonstrated by these charts) and contains more aircraft, it necessarily becomes more elliptical when viewed as a cross-section.
The CAA, in its wisdom, has chosen to allow departures to be re-routed east on a narrow channel above the arrivals path, and both Gatwick's arrivals and departures have to fly under Heathrow's flight paths.
Hence pushing the arrivals (at the bottom) to extremely disturbing heights.
Does this sorry tale really enhance your trust in Gatwick to deliver on any of its promises for your community?
Last week I watched as Tunbridge Wells District Council debated, in full council and with the public admitted and encouraged to contribute, whether to support the second runway or not. Following a technical explanation and the words of 3 speakers, several Cllr's stated that they had arrived minded to support, but had then changed their minds. In the end, they voted 35:1 (and 1 abstention) against supporting the second runway.
It was deeply encouraging to witness such an event, and I do not necessarily mean because of the outcome. It was democracy in action and I thank you for allowing time for 2 debates in your County. As you may have heard, East Sussex decided to support the second runway via the delegated power of 1 man, which has caused considerable uproar.
In early 2014 Stewart Wingate was hauled before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee after Gatwick's disastrous response to the flooding crisis over Christmas, when, in his own words their "actions fell short"
He went on to admit:
"Clearly it will have had an impact on our reputation. Hopefully we will able to regain the trust of our passengers in 2014."
He could apologise now, 12 months on, to the thousands who continue to have their lives turned upside down despite his assurances that 'nothing has changed' using the same sentence, simply replacing 'passengers' with 'anyone'
We will ask our followers to email you with 'Gatwick: It's about trust' in the subject title. Each one that does so is supporting our cause.
May I plea on behalf of our followers and the thousands more traumatised by Gatwick's desire for ever-more juicy landing fees, whisked off-shore before any UK-benefitting tax can be levied, that you think very carefully before helping hand them those multi-billion-dollar keys to a second runway.
What or who is Gatwick Obviously Not?
We evolved out of Planes over Penshurst (which itself only started in June 2014). Initially to alert people to the Consultation (only 14 people in Penshurst responded to the first one in 2013) we then changed our name to reflect the far wider reach we quickly achieved.
We were a significant element in causing the deferral of the Consultation (given its woeful dissemination, very confusing language and derided aims)
"You will have seen in the news however that Gatwick have postponed such a submission for change following significant local resistance.
Peter Gardiner, Business Manager to the Chair and CEO, CAA, 1st October 2014
This table is taken from Gatwick's own Final Report into the Consultation. Planes over Penshurst/Gatwick Obviously Not.org achieved 1,540 responses.
We also played a key role in persuading KCC to change their minds on supporting the 2nd runway:
"An unprecedented number of emails were sent to the Leader of Kent County Council by local residents of West Kent who were angry and frustrated at the noise generated by aircraft flying over the area this summer. Those emails, following the pathway so clearly set out by the Gatwick Obviously Not website, were the single factor in forcing the County Council to change its aviation policy and, as a consequence, to openly and publicly reject the proposed second runway at Gatwick."
Kent County Councillor Clive Pearman, 11th December 2014
January 14th 2015
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