Building a second runway at Gatwick Airport would be “the biggest destruction of British heritage since the Blitz”, campaigners have said.
The Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warned 17 historic buildings – including several Grade II-listed ones – were threatened.
A former residence of Henry VIII’s fifth wife is among those “requiring removal”, according to airport plans.
Gatwick said many buildings would be retained or relocated.
A decision on additional runway capacity has been put back until “at least October” while the Conservative leadership race takes place.
Sally Pavey, of CPRE Sussex, said expansion “would see irreversible destruction of Britain’s heritage and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people in Kent, Surrey and Sussex”.
She called on the Tory leadership candidates to rule out expansion and “not betray the Home Counties” if they are chosen.
“The candidates have a duty to stand up to Gatwick and protect the lifestyle and culture for our future generations,” she said.
Several conservation and campaign groups are to meet with a local MP at Grade II-listed Rowley House – one of the buildings identified in runway design documents for “complete removal” or demolition – to oppose the plans.
The 16th Century farmhouse was once owned by the Culpeper family, a member of whom was Joyce Culpeper. Her gdaughter Catherine Howard – Henry VIII’s fifth wife – was beheaded in 1542.
Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, said he was “convinced Gatwick should not see runway expansion” for both economic and environmental reasons.
The Woodland Trust has also backed the campaign, having previously warned “irreplaceable habitat” would be destroyed.
Grade II-listed buildings which “require removal”
- Rowley Farmhouse, Brighton Road, Crawley
- Charlwood House (formerly Ticcaradges), Charlwood Road, Lowfield Heath
- Gatwick Manor Inn (Hyders Hall), London Road, Crawley
- Church of St Michael and All Angels, Church Road, Crawley
Gatwick Airport said many of the buildings identified in its plans were timber-framed, making them “viable to move and relist” at new locations.
A spokesman said: “If we build a new runway everything possible will be done to retain listed buildings within the scheme, or use experienced experts to relocate them to suitable new sites nearby.
“We have a good track record when it comes to managing our local environment. Gatwick has been referred to as the airport in the countryside and we will ensure that it stays that way.”
The airport has committed to retaining a Grade II-listed 1930s terminal building and control tower previously earmarked for relocation.
Known as “The Beehive”, the circular building will remain in its original location.
The airport said the building was “important not only in the history of British aviation but also in terms of world airport design”.