The government’s decision to favour expansion at Heathrow rather than Gatwick is “a real blow” for the local economy, according to the leader of the council.
Councillor Warren Morgan, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “We’re incredibly disappointed the government has decided to expand Heathrow rather than taking forward the opportunities for growth at Gatwick Airport.
“A second runway at Gatwick would have massively benefited Brighton and Hove’s economy, businesses and residents as well as supporting our thriving overseas visitor economy. This decision is a real blow for city.
“We will now be lobbying hard with Gatwick Airport and our partners across Greater Brighton and the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership to seek the massive investment needed in the region’s considerable infrastructure challenges including radical improvements to the Brighton main line.”
His disappointment was shared by the opposition Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald who also preferred a second runway at Gatwick to a third runway at Heathrow.
Councillor Theobald said: “We are very disappointed that the government has chosen not to support the expansion of Gatwick Airport.
“The potential benefits of a second runway for the city, local businesses and residents were hugely significant in terms of delivering jobs, apprenticeships and boosting the local economy.
“This is despite the local Conservative group and Brighton and Hove City Council as a whole expressing its strong support for a second runway at Gatwick and the chief executive writing to the Prime Minister to offer the council’s support for expansion at Gatwick.”
Councillor Theobald added: “In terms of moving forward, I know that spokespersons for Gatwick Airport have previously said that they could take the project forward without public money from government and I would implore them to do so.
“In the meantime, the Conservative group will continue to push for the expansion of Gatwick Airport for the benefit of the city and its residents.”But Green group convenor Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “The expansion of any airport – whether Heathrow or Gatwick – promises to pollute our skies further, break our climate change promises and puts big businesses before communities and our environment.
“Standing in favour of airport growth, as the Labour administration has done locally, does not mean standing in favour of local businesses and communities.
“In fact, 60 per cent of flights at Gatwick are leisure-related to other parts of the UK so expansion of the airport would only entice visitors away from spending money in our city which would negatively impact on our local tourist economy.
“Our city has seen a large drop in visitor numbers since Labour took power and we believe we should be spending our energy making the case for more visitors to come to the city.
“Further, a myth is peddled about how airport expansion benefits those with least in society when three quarters of leisure travel is by the richest people in society and over half of the British population don’t fly at all.
“Only 15 per cent of the population take 70 per cent of the flights.
“Transport for London put the cost of expanding Heathrow to taxpayers at £15 billion to £20 billion to provide associated infrastructure and there is no question it would cost us at Gatwick too.
“On the one hand we are told that we have to tighten our belts but somehow there’s always the cash to throw at airports.
“Airport expansion happening at the same time as we have meltdown across public transport is madness.
“You can often fly cheaper than taking the train and anyone who has taken a train to or from Brighton and Hove recently knows we desperately need investment in public transport infrastructure.
“A healthy economy can only happen with a healthy environment so the protection of the environment in turn protects the economy.
“What good will any expanded airport be if we are too unwell to feel any benefits?
“The government is in court this week for failing to cut air pollution and any expansion of airports will only mean our air is more polluted as our climate change commitments go unachieved.
“It is a shame that, for our government and locally, commitments to our environment are little more than lip service.”
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, whose Green Party opposes expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick, said: “The government is on the brink of announcing climate-wrecking plans for airport expansion in south east England.
“We know that that laying more tarmac at either Heathrow or Gatwick will bust any hope we have of meeting our climate change commitments and inflict noise and air pollution on already-blighted local communities.
“Instead of expanding these airports the government should introduce a frequent flyer levy to reduce the need for any new runway capacity and invest the money raised in further measures to offer climate-friendly alternatives to air travel.
“I urge ministers to look at this proposal and hope that opposition parties can join together in opposing airport expansion and backing this sensible alternative.”
The Labour MP for Hove, Peter Kyle, said: “The worst-kept secret has now finally been announced.
“The Gatwick proposals would have created opportunities for the Greater Brighton economy and we now need to look at how policy-makers and politicians can support Gatwick and realise its potential going forward.
“One of the compelling aspects of the Gatwick bid was how competition it offered to existing Heathrow destinations drove down prices for the benefit of passengers and businesses.”
Jonathan Sharrock, chief executive of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “We are disappointed that the government favours a new runway at Heathrow instead of at Gatwick. We believe that a second runway at Gatwick represents the better option and would be cheaper and easier to build.”
The LEP takes “a strategic lead in ensuring that the infrastructure and conditions for economic growth are in place” across the region.
Mr Sharrock said: “Gatwick Airport and the businesses in the surrounding area are a major driver of growth in our regional economy. The Gatwick economy makes up nearly half of our regional economy and is worth around £23 billion.
“We will continue to work very closely with Gatwick to ensure that the airport continues to benefit the region.”