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CPRE Sussex argues against Gatwick Airport ‘second runway’

29th February 2024

We have requested that there should be an issue specific hearing on climate change as that is central to any sustainability appraisal or assessment of the proposal because of the widespread and long-term impacts of climate change that cannot be easily mitigated with any certainty.

The Chair of CPRE Sussex made the case against the Gatwick Airport ‘second runway’ plans at the start of the examination of the plans by the Planning Inspectorate on 28 and 29 February:

–             This Northern Runway proposal runs against government policy which favours Heathrow for any expansion in capacity. The need for any other increase in capacity is surely reduced by the recent decision to expand Southampton. Put simply: This proposal is not “making best use of” existing resources – it is a rebuild of the airport to accommodate a brand-new second runway. Further, the proposal is overly reliant on Jet Zero approaches to future fuels for aviation and the availability of these alternative fuels is uncertain at best. There are real questions to be answered as to whether they can be available at global scales in a way that would allow net zero ambitions to be met.

–             We are fully supportive of the remarks made by CAGNE on noise and air quality. For those living under and close to flight paths, aircraft noise already disturbs peoples’ sleep at night and during the day aircraft noise can be heard over the sound of conversation or TVs in people’s homes. Because Gatwick is attracting older and noisier aircraft, noise problems will likely get worse not better.

–             Air quality issues will not improve no matter what fuel type is used – they might even get worse partly because of increased surface transport that will now be based on fossil fuel systems for far longer due to government pushing back EV dates by five years.

–             Total greenhouse gas emissions from flights departing from or arriving at Gatwick will increase as a result of increased aircraft movements and flights, increased travel to access the airport by road and what will be an overcrowded rail system, and increased out-of-airport transport supporting its operations. All that at a time when decreased emissions are required to meet net zero ambitions. The reason net zero is important is that humanity needs to lower the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Off-setting schemes or biomass-based fuels don’t help with that as they could leave the same amount of GHGs in the atmosphere. That is not good enough. The levels need to be lower not the same or higher. In fact humanity may need not just net zero but overall negative emissions. Any increase in emissions will make that difficult to achieve.

–             Sussex residents are already feeling the effects of climate change on their lives. Heatwaves with temperatures of 40C arrived more than 20 years earlier than expected, increased flooding, overheating in homes, more intense and frequent storms and coastal effects that could increase erosion. There is real public concern about the frequency and scale of weather extremes. February has been unusually warm and unusually wet. 2023 was one of the warmest years on record with global average temperatures above the 1.5C Paris Agreement target. This Northern Runway proposal does nothing to improve that situation.

–             The proposal will have social impacts on people’s lives over a wide area of Sussex because of the additional resources and space that Gatwick’s expansion would consume. These proposals will not just affect the airport itself. They will impact the nature of the Sussex’s landscape and general environmental and social conditions for the worse. It will make Sussex’s overall affordable housing problems even more acute. Crawley cannot meet the housing needs of current residents let alone thousands of new ones.

–             An expanded Gatwick may be a magnet for economic activity. But its associated social (health, housing) and environmental harms (especially climate change) will be geographically widespread, substantial, long-term and cannot be mitigated with any certainty that can be demonstrated at the present time.