Gatwick Airport: Can Crawley turn away from aviation and go…Hull247Cars
Gatwick Airport: Can Crawley turn away from aviation and go “green”?
Crawley relies on nearby Gatwick Airport for thousands of jobs, but it is now hoping to become less reliant on aviation and instead encourage sustainable business. With future demand for air travel, especially in the next year or two, uncertain, people who lost their jobs want local “quality” jobs soon. Gatwick had employed about 6,000 people from Crawley, and supported many more jobs in industries like hospitality and catering. With uncertainties about what British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian will do about keeping flights at Gatwick, it is unlikely numbers of passengers will return to 2019 levels perhaps for another four years. It is unlikely as many people would be employed in aviation then as in 2019, as airlines and airports increase automation of jobs as fast as possible. In early March the government gave Crawley £21.1m to help achieve what it called “plans to become a modern, vibrant and healthy digital town with a thriving green economy”. The council aims to offer training in areas like insulation and solar power installation, while driving demand by “retrofitting” council homes and ensuring new developments are sustainable. .Tweet Gatwick Airport: Can Crawley turn away from aviation and go green? By William McLennan (BBC News) 31.3.2021 The economic impact of the pandemic has hit few places as hard as Crawley, which relies on nearby Gatwick Airport for thousands of jobs. But the West Sussex town is now plotting a route to recovery which it hopes will see it become less reliant on aviation and a haven for sustainable business. Some of Crawley’s 110,000 residents believe there will be a turbulent future ahead, as the plan does nothing to address the immediate need for ‘quality jobs’ in the local area. But others have already began to turn their fortunes around on the back of what the town hopes are the first shoots of “green growth”. Werner Oeder lost his job at a utility company two days after Boris Johnson ordered the nation to stay at home in March 2020. At the age of 50, he was forced to receive unemployment benefit for the first time in his life. “It was stressful,” he said. “Everything had been shut down and I didn’t think there would be companies out there hiring.” After a “tough” four months applying for hundreds of jobs in everything from project management to delivery driving, he was hired by Naked Energy, a solar heating and electricity start-up based at an industrial estate in Crawley. “I was really lucky,” he said. “I wasn’t necessarily qualified for it, but they saw the potential in me.” The lifeline for Mr Oeder came as Crawley faced an uncertain future. When the pandemic decimated international travel, airlines began to pull out of Gatwick Airport, which had employed 6,000 people from the town, and supported many more jobs in industries like hospitality and catering. British Airways suspended all flights on 31 March 2020. Virgin Atlantic quit in May and has no plans to return this year. The company sold its vast training base near the airport for £30m in August. In January, budget airline Norwegian axed its long-haul network, leading to the loss of 1,100 jobs based at Gatwick. BA resumed some long-haul flights from Gatwick in June, but it is unclear if and when short-haul will return. Gatwick does not expect passenger numbers to return to “pre-pandemic levels until 2025”, but said airlines were keen to resume flights, with some due to begin operating from the airport for the first time. In Crawley, the economic impacts of the pandemic are stark. More than 12,000 people were on furlough in January, or 20% of the workforce – one of the highest proportions in the country. In February, more than 6,400 people were claiming unemployment benefits, an increase of 230% in a year. But the answer is not simply to get planes in the sky again, Crawley council leader Peter Lamb says. “Even if it gets back to the same passenger numbers or higher, the total level of the workforce will be lower,” he said. Falling demand for workers due to automation at the airport was already a “huge risk” before the pandemic, he added. But Crawley’s solution for long term growth, according to the council’s plans for recovery, will see it undergo a “green transformation” and become a hub for “digital innovation” and green technology companies. Earlier this month, the government gave the town £21.1m to help achieve what it called “plans to become a modern, vibrant and healthy digital town with