The Government Office for the South East (GOSE) issued an article 14 direction preventing the council giving permission for BAA's proposal to extend the North Terminal and build a multi-storey car park.
A decision on whether an inquiry should be held will now be made by the secretary of state. Airport capacity would increase to 40 million passengers a year if the scheme goes ahead.
Crawley councillors debated the scheme at committee this week. A council spokesman said: "Members decided that had they been allowed to permit the scheme they would have done so. We have informed the GOSE of the decision."