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KCC councillor Matthew Balfour claims statement supporting second runway at Gatwick is 'history' at Southborough Town Council meeting

By Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

Kent County Council's support for a second runway at Gatwick airport is ‘history’, according to a councillor.

Matthew Balfour, deputy cabinet member for transport and environment for KCC, attended a Southborough Town Council meeting.

He was grilled by residents and campaign groups from across Tunbridge Wells about the council's current position on the airport.

The government will abolish air passenger duty on under 12s from May next year, extending to under 16s in 2016
The government will abolish air passenger duty on under 12s from May next year, extending to under 16s in 2016

Joint leader of campaign group Gatwickobviouslynot.org, Martin Barraud, questioned Mr Balfour about KCC’s views.

He believes documents relating to the issue available on KCC's website are misleading and confusing for the public.

During the meeting he made several references to a statement online that currently reads: "'Kent County Council recommends that a second runway at Gatwick is delivered soon after the 2019 planning agreement ends.'"

When asked if this still stands, Mr Balfour said: “No, that is history.”

Sir John Stanley, Tonbridge and Malling MP, previously sent a letter to council leader Paul Carter asking him to formally rescind the authority's support of the second runway but has not received a reply.

Those involved in the meeting were directed to a document on the KCC website that now states it currently has no preferred option.

Mr Balfour added: “After the consultation next year KCC will discuss with the Airport Commission and come to a decision then. But at this moment in time the council neither welcomes nor rejects a second runway at Gatwick.”

Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley
Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley

He urged those at the meeting to read the document titled, ‘Facing the Aviation Challenge’.

It states that Heathrow and Gatwick airports have put forward credible solutions to the problem of airport capactiy constraints.

"An additional runway at either airport are the options shortlisited by the Airports Commission in its interim report in December 2013," the document adds.

"KCC gives support in principle to expansion at either airport as the right solution to the UK’s aviation needs.”

Sir John does not feel that this new document is enough and is urging Mr Carter to formally state that KCC objects to the proposals.

Matthew Balfour
Matthew Balfour

He said: “When KCC released the original document supporting the second runway at Gatwick it was damaging and very devastating for the residents of west Kent.

“It is all very well saying that it is history and putting another document in the air claiming they currently don’t have a stand on the proposal, but it doesn’t mean anything until they formally rescind that statement of support made to the Airport Commission.

“Mr Carter must write a formal statement rescinding the awfully damaging recommendation and cover it with a new one for expanding Heathrow. Until then, comments such as ‘that is history’ are meaningless" - Sir John Stanley...

“This new revised comment is buried in an extremely detailed document that 99% of people will not be able to find let alone have the time to trawl through. As well as that, their original statement can still be found on the website - so how are the public meant to know what's right?

“I am urging KCC to formally abandon its support for the second runway at Gatwick and cover that with a new recommendation for another runway at Heathrow where there is the capacity to build one.

"It has a responsibility to the people of west Kent and needs to take action to protect them.

“Mr Carter must write a formal statement rescinding the awfully damaging recommendation. Until then, comments such as ‘that is history’ are meaningless."

Southborough Town Council will discuss its stand on the proposals at a meeting tonight.

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