Skip to navigation

Biggest destruction of British heritage since the Blitz if Gatwick expands

Friday, 08 July 2016 11:54

Campaigners against Gatwick expansion have united to hold a rally on Friday, July 1 2016 at the ancestral farm of one of Henry VIII’s wives to highlight the devastation Gatwick expansion would wreak on British heritage in the southeast. At today’s rally, the campaign groups unveiled a new document outlining the irreversible impact Gatwick expansion will have on British heritage, local history and the environment.


Gatwick’s own submission to the Airports Commission detailed 17 listed buildings all heading for the chop* – some of Britain’s finest examples of medieval architecture – and the last remnant of the ancient village of Lowfield Heath which was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1068.

Brendon Sewill, Chairman of GACC, said:

“Gatwick seek to wallpaper over the sheer level of destruction it would cause to our British heritage. This is a major stand against Gatwick on one of the historical sites that its proposal would destroy. It would be far more damaging than HS2.”

The planned development will result in the mass destruction of heritage sites, triple the amount which will be destroyed by the new HS2 rail link between London and the North.

Henry Smith MP for Crawley said:

"Gatwick Airport is an important economic contributor but we must also have respect for our local environment and heritage.

"I believe we can see a successful airport in harmony with the importance of maintaining countryside strategic gaps for the wider community good.

"For both economic and area environmental reasons I am convinced that Gatwick should not see runway expansion."

15 hectares of ancient woodland which have stood undisturbed continuously since at least 1600 will also get the axe as new car parks and terminal buildings fill almost the entire space between the current airport and the town of Crawley. These complex ecosystems have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of years to establish and form a critical part of local history and biodiversity.

Brenda Smith, West Sussex County councillor for the area, said: 

“Not only does the Gatwick runway involve demolishing 17 ancient buildings but the boundary of the airport would come to within a hundred yards of Crawley, a town with 110,000 inhabitants. All the problems of noise and health which apply at Heathrow would be equally bad at Crawley. Our infrastructure is already almost at a standstill; we have the highest level of asthma in children. A second runway would be intolerable.”

In the midst of a housing crisis which is crippling communities across the UK, Gatwick are proposing to double their airport putting impossible demands on the local housing stock. West Sussex County Council’s consultants estimate that an additional 40,000 new houses will be needed to house the workers needed to fill the posts at an expanded Gatwick, representing the biggest risk to local countryside.

At full capacity, an expanded Gatwick would operate almost twice as many flights. They’ve committed to using both runways all day every day seven days a week, offering no respite for local communities and threatening areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the South Downs National Park.

Sally Pavey, Chair of CAGNE and Trustee of CPRE Sussex said:

“The Conservative Party leadership candidates need to make it clear: they won’t betray the Home Counties, destroy our livelihoods and be responsible for the biggest destruction of British heritage since the Blitz.

Expansion at Gatwick won’t just be a temporary disruption, it would see the irreversible destruction of Britain's heritage and the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The candidates have a duty to stand up to Gatwick and protect the lifestyle and culture for our future generations of years to come.”

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust Chief Executive, said:

“What must be recognised is that ‘environmental impact’ should not only be used, as has consistently been the case as part of the expansion debate, as a term to refer to noise and vibration in relation to people and their homes, with damage to the natural environment seemingly just a secondary complication. Any risk of loss or damage to the natural environment, and especially to irreplaceable habitats like ancient woodland or ancient trees, must be taken just as seriously, and every possible avenue investigated to avoid it if we are to adapt to threats such as climate change, and so that communities can exercise their right to a healthy lifestyle…….remembering that this is not just about the footprint of a new runway, but all the surrounding development likely to be required that will add more strain on the UK’s natural environment in the long term.”

Keith Taylor, MEP for the South East, was unable to attend the event at Rowley due to emergency debates in the European Parliament, but commented: "The case for airport expansion is built on sand. It is, and always has been, a myth that the UK faces an airport capacity crisis; we already fly more than any other country. Despite this, the airport and the pro-expansion lobby are spending millions of pounds trying to convince people otherwise. All but one UK airport is under-capacity and demand is likely to fall, rather than rise, following Britain's decision to leave the EU.

We cannot hope to meet vital climate change targets while building major new runways – the two policies are wholly incompatible. Gatwick expansion not only threatens the South East with more noise, more traffic, and more pollution but also directly threatens the unprecedented demolition of our heritage and countryside.”

The campaign groups are CPRE Surrey, CPRE Sussex, CPRE Kent, the Woodland Trust, the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, and Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions.

join us

Back to top