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1949: 1000 employees say ‘Don’t close our airport’

The original terminal building at Gatwick Airport,The Beehive, Beehive Ring Road. Wikimedia public domain image.

It seems strange today that just after the Second World War, Gatwick Airport might have been closed down - as this article in the Crawley Observer confirms. Today thousands of jobs in the village and in Mid Sussex depend on the airport for their livelihoods.

Following a mass demonstration of nearly 1,000 employees at Gatwick Airport against closure, a signed petition and resolution have been sent to Charlwood Parish Council.

In December the council decided to press for the reopening of Cotlands footpath, which runs across the main runway, after the airport is the requisition by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in September.

The demonstration was organised by the employees themselves and the purpose was to give a vote of confidence in a committee pledged to fight the threatened closure.

The reopening of the footpath running from Timberham, Lowfield Heath to Balcombe Road, Horley, would be the closure of the airport and unemployment for nearly 1000 people.

In an orderly, calm atmosphere, the employees agreed that a petition signed by everyone concerned should be sent to the council, together with the following resolution:

‘We the employees at Gatwick Airport, deprecate the decision to open the now obsolete footpaths by Charlwood Council. With the view that the airport will be rendered useless by such action, 1000 workers would be unemployed and there is no similar industry in the area to accommodate them.

Such wanton disregard of so many workers would be fragrant injustice to humanity and we call on you for positive action in our favour.

The resolution was signed by the elected committee, Messrs EJ Etheridge, WH Toffney, J Carter, HM Atkins and J Lane.

Airports Ltd, who now control the airport, have already argued to the council, that the Cotlands footpath has been closed for nearly 10 years and was little used before the war.

Horley Parish Council, on the other hand, claimed that all existing footpath should be preserved for the use of the public.

Meanwhile, the question of keeping the airport open because of the importance it would play in a hypothetical defence of London is still under consideration by national defence experts.

A decision on their part for retention, which is considered likely, would probably result in government intervention against the action of Charlwood Parish Council.

Crawley and District Observer, 25 February 1949

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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