'Croydon International' suggestion for Gatwick airport gets mixed reaction
STEVE O'Connell has opened up a can of worms by suggesting one of the world's busiest airports takes the name 'Croydon International'.
The Kenley councillor and Croydon Greater London Authority member was hit with a mixture of anger and ridicule when a link to our story was last week posted on the Facebook page of the Crawley News, our sister paper.
But not everyone thinks Mr O'Connell has his head in the clouds. Mike Fisher, leader of Croydon Council, welcomed the name change as something which could be of potential benefit to the area's regeneration.
He said: "Gatwick very much serves Croydon. It is the economic hub [of the borough]. If it gets people talking about Croydon then that's a good thing."
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Richard Ottaway, MP for Croydon South, has said that although he is happy with the name Gatwick, he would welcome the name change.
He said: "Gatwick is important for the Croydon economy, particularly for my constituency. It is probably the largest employer in my constituency.
"It's something which I don't underestimate."
Mr O'Connell last week raised the issue of a name change at a Greater London Authority meeting
He said: "Gatwick is Croydon's first and best international connection, and it only makes sense to link it by name to this recognisable part of London."
Mr O'Connell also confirmed that he had spoken to Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, about renaming the airport.
However, Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell said that a name change was not a likely outcome, and added that talks about making developments to Croydon's airport capacity should be a priority.
"Extending the airport, increasing its capacity and jobs and the connection to other airports – that's where I think the focus should be," he said.
"I don't really think the renaming is going to happen."
Matthew Sims, chief executive of the Croydon Business Improvement District, expressed indifference to the airport idea and thinks attention should be focused on the town's bright future instead.
"Croydon has a wonderful future ahead of it and a lot of potential," he said.
"The hope is that Croydon will become a major economic centre… I think the important thing is to hold on to the fact that we have two major businesses [Westfield and Hammerson] coming to Croydon."
Mr O'Connell's idea has not gone down well in Crawley, the borough where the airport is located.
Crawley MP and fellow Tory Henry Smith branded the suggestion "utter nonsense", while residents used our sister title's Facebook page to ridicule the idea.
Rob Beadle called Mr O'Connell a "dope", while Theresa Anne Gunner wrote: "Maybe we should send him a map! Typical idiot politician."
Brian Miles wrote: "Croydon has, or rather did have an airport, it is now a trading estate. Anyway, how far is Croydon from Gatwick, about 20 miles or so?"