Two campaign groups join call to suspend expansion of Gatwick Airport

Two campaign groups have joined the call for a suspension on the expansion of Gatwick Airport as well as other airports across the country.

CAGNE, the umbrella aviation community and environment group for Sussex, Surrey and Kent, and the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) has joined the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) and 14 UK community groups from eight airports in calling for all airport expansion to be halted, in view of the Government’s move to include aviation in carbon budgets and legislation.

In a letter featured exclusively in The Guardian, campaigners have called for the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to ‘suspend the determination of all applications to increase the physical capacity of UK airports, or their approved operating caps, until noise and climate policies were in place, against which such applications could be judged.’

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A spokesperson from CAGNE said: “At a time when there has been a lack of investment by aviation, we see airports such as Gatwick Airport seeking significant growth, without the means or plans for how they are to deliver net zero by 2050.

CAGNE has joined a national call for the Government to impose a blanket moratorium on all airport expansion plans. Picture by Steve Robards

“It would be a dangerous and irresponsible act by the Government to allow any expansion, prejudging the outcome of its net zero aviation consultation (due this summer).”

Peter Barclay, chairman of GACC, added: “Airport expansion is completely inconsistent with the Government’s new approach to aviation emissions and the formal advice from the Committee on Climate Change.

"It would be wholly wrong to allow any airport to expand until there is a clear policy framework and the industry has shown it can genuinely reduce its emissions and its other adverse impacts, such as noise and congestion.

"Airport expansion at Gatwick or elsewhere should be off the agenda for the foreseeable future”.

The proposed expansion by Gatwick – to rebuild the emergency runway as a second runway called G2 (public consultation due this August/September), as well as adding some 40 per cent capacity from the main runway – will come with a significant rise in carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

A pre-pandemic scenario saw predictions that Gatwick Airport would generate a colossal 2.7MtCO2 (million tons of carbon) per annum by 2050 (assumed to be handling 52 million passengers, served by 297,000 aircraft movements annually), even without using the G2 runway.

Cumulatively, the airports that are currently seeking expansion could result in an extra 9MtCO2 from UK aviation alone per year by 2050, if allowed to proceed.

The letter highlights the fact that the Government advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, ‘has made clear that adequate airport capacity already exists to meet the future levels of demand it deems to be compatible with a balanced pathway to achieving net zero by 2050.’

“We all welcome the Government’s move and its ambition to reduce the climate impact of aviation, but we need to see legislation before any further talk of airport expansion, or building second runways by stealth, or ‘making best use of current facilities’ as current policy allows.”

CAGNE added: “We look forward to the Government issuing the carbon consultation this summer and take this opportunity to highlight that a Director of AEF will feature in the first of a series of five environmental talks this year to coincide with the UK hosting COP 26 in November.

"The ‘Time is Ticking’ talks – organised by CAGNE and supported by CPRE Sussex, Surrey and Kent as well as Friends of the Earth – are based on the environmental ramifications of Gatwick’s expansion plans."