Horley Town Council has announced it is to hold what promises to be a packed open public meeting on the proposals for a second runway at Gatwick Airport.
The town council has set the public meeting, entitled “Do You Want a Second Runway at Gatwick?” - the first such meeting to be organised by the council for some six years and its first on the second runway proposals – for Friday, July 18, in St Wilfrid's Church hall in Horley Row.
For many, the second runway proposals are the major single issue facing the town and area today.
Three speakers will make time-limited presentations on the runway debate issues, including noise, air pollution and infrastructure.
The speakers, Alastair McDermid, the Airports Commission director for Gatwick, Peter Barclay of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, and a representative of the Gatwick Diamond Business forum, were invited because they have already given briefings to the town council over the last winter. Following the presentations, the meeting will split into smaller groups, headed by facilitators, to look at more specific areas and focus on residents' concerns.
Afterwards, the various groups' discussions will be looked at, before residents will get the chance to put questions to the meeting.
There will not be a resolution put, or a vote, at the meeting.
Town councillor Mike George, chairman of the council's second runway sub-committee and the main organiser of the event, said he hoped the turn-out would make it the biggest open public meeting in the council's history.
If more people want to attend than is possible, he said they may have to look at holding a second meeting.
Coun George said: “I would say it's the major issue facing the town.
“The main thrust of the meeting is to hear what the residents' views are.”
But he stressed: “The public meeting is not the be-all and end-all. It's part of a process.”
He said the council began gathering information about local feeling on the second runway topic some time ago, including through questionnaires at its stand at the town's St George's Day celebrations in April, and through the briefings held last winter.
Coun George said that according to the council's findings, the snapshot of the current situation indicates the largest per centage of residents responding is for the second runway to be built.
“The remainder was roughly split half and half as 'no' and 'not sure,' he continued.
“What's important to us though is that in our experience, in public meetings, they tended to be the 'anti' lobby.
“It's important to us at the council to hear the views of the 'pro' lobby.
“Our straw polls to date indicate that the 'for' lobby is the biggest contingent at the moment.”
Coun George said the council may also send out questionnaires to households, and put a questionnaire up online to gauge the feelings of residents who would not want to go to the public meeting.
“This is part of our fact-finding exercise, which hopefully will help us to come to a position and view on whether the second runway should happen.
“A lot of the town councillors haven't come to a decision yet,” he said.
Horley Town Council did not take part in the recent Gatwick Airport second runway consultation - instead keeping its counsel for the Airports Commission's consultation later this year.
The council is stressing all are welcome to attend the meeting at St Wilfrid's Church hall in Horley Row, Horley, on Friday, July 18, at 7.30pm.
For more details call the town council on 01293 784765, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org