“What about our air quality?” is the question being put before Prime Minister David Cameron in a new report released today by campaigners against the expansion of Gatwick Airport.
Community groups and MPs delivered a copy of the report to 10 Downing Street this morning raising the fact that an expanded Gatwick could present worse air quality for a much wider area than Heathrow currently due to a lack of infrastructure.
Campaigners say that air quality targets close to Gatwick have been broken despite the airport’s public denial. And they say it will happen again because traffic congestion is an additional major cause of air pollution on top of that caused by aircraft.
The document contains a letter from 10 MPs who wrote to the Secretary for State demanding that Gatwick’s ‘misleading advertising’ over air quality be stopped.
Airport officials maintain that Gatwick has never and ‘will never’ breach air quality limits. But campaigners say that Gatwick Airport is positioned on one of the worst railway lines in the country and it can’t be expanded due to physical restrictions. They say it will mean an increase in road traffic.
Horsham MP Jeremy Quin said: “Infrastructure in our area is already facing severe challenges. An extra runway at Gatwick would place an impossible strain on public transport, which was never designed to accommodate an airport, which would be busier than Heathrow.
“ Public Transport is incapable of coping with all the extra employees that would need to commute in long distances, let alone the extra passengers. This in turn would result in a huge increase in car traffic with all that that implies.”
And Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames said: “My constituency of Mid Sussex is already under the greatest pressure to meet its own existing housing needs today, even without Gatwick expansion. This is also the case with Crawley, Horsham, Brighton, Lewes and Adur all of whom share many of the same problems.
“The Airports Commission detailed that a town the size of Reigate, some 18,400 new homes, would be required for Gatwick expansion. With an already substandard and inefficient highway network and railway lines that are physically restricted and constantly broken, it is relevant to enquire how are the 95m passengers and workers meant to access Gatwick and London?
“This will represent huge infrastructure challenges as well as serious air quality concerns for our many towns and villages since growth in the region is way beyond the current infrastructure capacity and yet we are expected to accommodate an airport bigger than Heathrow with no Government funding.”
Local GP Dr Paul Stillman said people in Crawley were already facing problems. “A major clinical problem throughout that time has been the high levels of respiratory disorders, including asthma in children and young adults. Stress related illnesses, including high blood pressure with all its consequences, have also been apparent in this community more than elsewhere.
“I do not believe this is related to social deprivation or employment issues, simply because we don’t have them. It is however certainly in part the result of poor air quality from both aero fuels and road vehicles, and traffic congestion with the loss of open spaces for us to enjoy.”
Sally Pavey, chairman of Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions - CAGNE - said: “We are fed up of being ignored and dismissed by Gatwick management and have produced documents that detail exactly why Gatwick should not be expanded.
“We also have an ad van going around London today, informing people of the truth about Gatwick expansion.”
At number 10 today are four members of the Gatwick Coordination Group of MPs – Sir Nicholas Soames MP for Mid Sussex, Jeremy Quin MP for Horsham, Tom Tugendhat MP for Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling, and Nick Herbert MP for Arundel and South Downs.
Community groups include Derek Meakings from One’s Enough, a Crawley based group; Doug Cox of GACC, a conservation group that has been established since 1968 presenting all areas that surround Gatwick; Kia Trainor of CPRE Sussex (Campaign to Protect Rural England), and Sally Pavey Chair of CAGNE, a West Sussex and Surrey group that seeks a fair and equitable distribution of the currently level of flights in and out of Gatwick and are vehemently opposed to Gatwick expansion joined by CAGNE committee members Bill Sorrell and Gareth Hayton.