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Manor Royal BID responds to Davies Airport Commission

Manor Royal BID responds to Davies Airport Commission

Dear Sir Howard

Ref:    Airports Commission Consultation Response

We write on behalf of the Manor Royal Business Improvement District (BID) Company, (MRBD) Ltd.

Manor Royal Business District covers an area of 240 hectares adjacent to Gatwick Airport. The Business District provides 8 million square feet of commercial space and is home to more than 500 companies and 30,000 employees. As such it is one of the biggest business areas in the south east.

The future direction of Gatwick Airport has a direct bearing on the future of the Manor Royal Business District. The response of MRBD Limited recognises the merits of an expanded Gatwick Airport while highlighting a number of areas of concern where further work is required.

Our response expresses the view that expanding Gatwick Airport has a number of advantages over those proposed for Heathrow and represents a much more deliverable option. However, our support to expanding Gatwick Airport is conditional on those issues highlighted being adequately addressed, which at the moment they are not. Our support, therefore, can only be conditional subject to further work and analysis.    

Q1: What conclusions, if any, do you draw in respect of the three short-listed options?  

On balance, based on the findings of the Commission, we acknowledge the advantages of expanding Gatwick Airport as it represents a more deliverable and cost-effective option for increasing capacity in London and the South East. This is notwithstanding that part of the business district, equating to approximately one million square feet of commercial space, would be lost by the planned second runway.

This is a matter of great concern to MRBD Limited and we have already (with others) entered into discussions with Gatwick Airport Limited as to how this impact can be ameliorated.

However, the importance of Gatwick Airport as an economic driver is critical at a local, regional and national level and MRBD Limited on balance supports Gatwick Airport Limited's proposal to expand the airport and deliver two world class airports serving London and the UK - but only subject to certain conditions being met.

Since the airport was purchased by Global Investment Partners in 2009, we have been encouraged by the sizeable investments and improvements made to the infrastructure and operations at Gatwick Airport, which have transformed the Airport and enhanced its reputation.

Expansion at Gatwick will increase access to destinations worldwide, enabling our local, world-class companies to expand their operations and be retained in the area leading to a boost international trade and job creation.   

We believe that Gatwick's plan is relatively simple and can be delivered in a more acceptable timescale with lower cost to the public purse than the Heathrow option.   

However, we do have concerns relating to a number of matters that we would ask the Commission to take into account and on which we believe more clarity is required.     

Q2: Do you have any suggestions for how the short-listed options could be improved?

Availability of Land for Employment and Housing

We are particularly concerned about the provision of land to accommodate the perceived demand for housing and commercial property in the Crawley and Gatwick Diamond area.  

We believe further work is required to adequately assess both current and future needs in relation to land supply which is already at a tipping point.  

We believe more work is needed to ensure that land can be appropriated in the area, and the demand created for additional land to accommodate new residents and businesses, is planned carefully to avoid excessive in-commuting, increased congestion and increased property costs. In our view the Commission has taken a far too simplistic view of how these demands can be met and not properly taken into account the shortage of land to meet current and predicted levels of demand without a second runway.  

Impact on business premises and businesses

Consequently, Manor Royal Business District is directly affected by Gatwick Airport's plans for expansion albeit we recognise that a negative impact may be inevitable. However, it is important that those businesses and their employees that are directly affected receive relocation assistance as compensation for disruption to their day-to-day operations - this assistance should not be concentrated solely to land and property owners but should be extended to leasehold tenants. At this stage, the Commission's assessment of land supply issues and how they may be addressed appear under-researched and insufficiently evidenced.  

Road and Rail infrastructure

We believe that firm commitments, based on valid and detailed research, need to made, in order to secure adequate investment for the delivery of improvements to road and rail to meet the enlarged airport's travel consequences. Thus, one of the Gatwick Diamond's core assets - it's connectivity by a variety of transport modes - is less likely to be undermined.  

The Commission refers to the requirement for more detailed modelling of the local road network to assess the impact on key junctions.  From our perspective, it is imperative that this is undertaken as a priority as some existing roads around the western perimeter of Gatwick Airport are likely to be closed, resulting in a seriously negative impact on congestion and journey times in and around Manor Royal Business District.  This will have a significant adverse effect on many of the 30,000 people working on Manor Royal.   

East-West connectivity into Crawley and Manor Royal Business District is already difficult at peak travel times and it is important this situation is not exacerbated further.  We are seeking reassurances that this issue is addressed and for sufficient funds to be made available to improve the local network and road junction operation.     

Other Supporting infrastructure

Inherent in planning for new houses and business premises is the requirement for supporting infrastructure, beyond and not restricted to transport infrastructure. There appears to be little consideration of this and yet it is critical for successful location management. As well as being a cornerstone of the New Town movement upon which the modern town of Crawley is founded, the principles are central to a decent quality of life socially, environmentally and economically.  

Q3: Do you have any comments on how the Commission has carried out its appraisal?

Economic benefit

The Commission recognises the inherent difficulty with predicting future patterns in aviation (hence the forecasting based on five different scenarios) each leading to different possible futures for each airport and their respective benefits for job creation and wider economic benefit.  We would welcome some further insight or clarity as matters develop as this uncertainty is unhelpful when the central argument for expansion is about economic growth.  Furthermore, it has direct implications for the requirement for additional housing in the Gatwick Diamond area.    

Q4: In your view, are there any factors that have not been fully addressed?

Impact of expansion at Heathrow

If Heathrow Airport is recommended by the Commission as the preferred option for expanding airport capacity in the South East, it is important to understand the implications for Manor Royal Business District and the larger Gatwick Diamond area.     

There are concerns that the area would suffer huge negative impacts should this be the preferred option. Currently, there is a lack of understanding amongst policy makers, stakeholders, businesses and local communities about what might be done to mitigate this impact and construct a different future without an expanded Gatwick. This is not addressed in the report.  For example, would safeguarded land at Gatwick be released for commercial and residential development?  A decision to expand Heathrow while retaining safeguarded land as a reserve would be detrimental to the Gatwick Diamond area, effectively starving it of the opportunity to grow.  This scenario is not discussed within the report.  

Connectivity between Gatwick and Heathrow Airports

Of equal importance to the business community, many of whom trade internationally, is the connectivity between Gatwick and Heathrow Airports.  This point is of relevance whichever scenario is adopted.   The speed of access between the two airports needs improvement for the benefit of UK Plc. Again, this is not addressed in the report.  

Q8: Do you have any other comments?

Jobs and commuting

The Commission correctly recognises that there is a reasonable level of commuting to jobs outside the area e.g. to London and surrounding areas. However, we question the extent that an expanded Gatwick would reduce this trend by encouraging people to take up employment at the Airport and within the local area.  This clearly impacts on the area's housing and other infrastructure needs and we therefore believe this requires more careful evaluation.     

Area-wide Governance

If Gatwick Airport is recommended by the Commission as the preferred option for expanding airport capacity in the South East, we strongly urge the Commission to petition Government to obtain additional economic impact studies.   An expanded Gatwick Airport will have a positive impact on the locality, in that it will bring with it heightened status and profile for the Gatwick Diamond region. This further emphasises the importance of new responsibilities in terms of ‘place management' and governance.  However, this will need to be managed efficiently to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic delays and compromises. The structures for government in place locally must be robust enough to manage and take decisions on an area-wide basis.   We therefore recommend that a governance model should be established to deliver the appropriate environment for robust accountability to satisfy stakeholders across the region.  

The importance of making a decision

Finally, we strongly encourage the Commission to impress on the Government and the Opposition the importance of making a decision. The debate about airport expansion has already been long running without any conclusion and a number of seemingly ‘false starts'.  We trust that the Commission, in making its recommendation, will emphasise the need for the decision to be final and delivered within a defined timescale.     

Yours sincerely

Trevor Williams, Chairman
Steve Sawyer, Executive Director
Manor Royal Business District Limited

SUBMISSION MADE TO THE AIRPORTS COMMISSION BY MRBD LIMITED WAS SENT ELECTRONICALLY ON 30 JANUARY 2015

 

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