THE area surrounding Gatwick Airport could take a decade to recover from the financial impacts of the coronavirus crisis, a report has found.

The study warned of job losses and a plummeting economic output after the UK lockdown forced flights to grind to a halt.

This comes as airlines which usually operate hundreds of flights to and from the site each day continue to announce huge job cuts.

British Airways has revealed a proposal to slash 12,000 jobs, with more than 1,000 pilots at risk.

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Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic, which has been a permanent fixture at Gatwick since its first flight from there in 1984, announced last month it would be stopping all flights to and from the airport as well as cutting 3,150 jobs across the company. This comes just four years after Virgin Atlantic opened a new head office in nearby Crawley.

Virgin chief executive Shai Weiss said: “To safeguard our future and emerge a sustainably profitable business, now is the time for further action to reduce our costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible. It is crucial that we return to profitability in 2021.”

The report was commissioned by the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, a business-led strategic partnership which looks to create “the right conditions for sustainable growth” in the areas of West Sussex and East Surrey which surround Gatwick, known as the Gatwick Diamond.

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It was produced with a view to helping businesses recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and revealed some sobering statistics about the area’s economy.

The report stated: “Almost three quarters of employment in the neighbourhood directly surrounding the airport and half of the employment in Crawley is directly affected by the current lockdown.

“Gatwick Diamond is made up of a greater concentration of sectors impacted by Covid-19 than the wider Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership area (which covers Brighton and Hove, Croydon, the Gatwick Diamond, Lewes and West Sussex).

“As such, the Gatwick Diamond is disproportionately impacted in terms of employment exposure relative to the wider area.

“Several places in the Gatwick Diamond have high levels of self- employment.”

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As a result of these factors, the report predicted a 13 to 16 per cent reduction in the area’s local economic output this year and warned this could have “significant implications for employment across the region”.

Jeff Alexander, executive director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, looked to combat the negative impacts of the virus on the area’s economy and recommended businesses take a collaborative approach to achieve this.

He said: “We commissioned this report to help inform the strategic decisions our partners and businesses are grappling with amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“In an era of unprecedented economic and market volatility, it’s clear that a collaborative and agile approach is required to ensure our companies and residents are supported as they navigate these changing times.

“Our underlying economy is resilient, it’s simply about working together to help businesses in the Gatwick Diamond survive and thrive, in order to save and create more businesses and local jobs.”

The report delivered a damning forecast for the recovery of the area’s economy, saying it could take ten years. But it added: “The Gatwick Diamond is home to a number of fast growing technology and medical device firms that may help the area to recover at a faster rate than the national average.

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