More than 20,000 Crawley homes and businesses could be faced with poorer air quality if a second runway is built at Gatwick.
West Sussex County Council discussed its response to an Airports Commission consultation on the potential effects of airport expansion on air quality at a meeting in Chichester on Friday.
Members expressed disappointment at the short consultation window and raised concerns over the impact of pollution from aircraft and road vehicles on residents near the airport.
Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill and Worth) said: “I’m pleased that we have taken a very strong line on this.
“I’m concerned about the fact that we are now talking about 21,000 properties being predicted to have higher concentrations of Nitrogen dioxide than at present, and 62 at risk due to the scale and increase in emissions.
“That cannot be right and I think we need to send a very clear message on that, and in the event of airport expansion we do need to ensure that figure comes down.”
He also raised the fact that Crawley Borough Council (CBC) was looking at consulting over a possible Air Quality Management Area in the Crawley Avenue area, and asked if both authorities could liaise over sharing statistics and research.
This was echoed by CBC leader Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate and Three Bridges), who said he could not see how air quality could improve if more vehicles were travelling in that area considering the amount of new homes that were being built.
Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East) asked what impact poorer air quality would have on the 31 primary, six secondary, and two special schools in Crawley, and said: “We are all without exception relying on the quality of the air we breathe.”
Heidi Brunsdon (Con, Imberdown) congratulated the cabinet member and officers on the report, but told councillors the time given by the Airports Commission for people to respond to the latest consultation was ‘disgraceful’.
Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Warnham) said that air pollution was already bad in parts of Crawley and Horsham, and in places as far away as Storrington, which already suffers from air quality issues.
She added: “The increase in traffic will not help these roads but there’s no plans but to tweak a few roundabouts in the Crawley area.”
John O’Brien (Con, East Grinstead South and Ashurst Wood), WSCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We are disappointed and concerned that the very limited time allowed by the Commission to prepare a response to its consultation has limited the opportunity for organisations and residents to consider and understand the forecast effects on air quality and the impacts that these will have on residents.
“It will be important to avoid, reduce or mitigate the effects of increased aviation on local people, communities and the environment.
“The Airports Commission must, in its recommendations, stress the need to avoid, reduce and mitigate the effects on air quality of providing additional runway capacity.
“The Commission and the Government must ensure that the full range of appropriate mitigation measures is implemented.
“We shall continue to maintain a constructive relationship with all partners, including Gatwick Airport Limited, to ensure that the economic effects of any decision by the Government about airport expansion are optimised and that all of the potential adverse effects for West Sussex communities are addressed.”
The Commission has looked at a range of ways of mitigating the effects of increased air and road traffic. These include:-
- achieving high bus, coach and train access;
- congestion-free road access;
- concentrating aircraft activities in the midfield area away from homes;
- encouraging airlines to use the cleanest aircraft;
- increasing the use of, ultra-low emission vehicles; and
- congestion charging people travelling to the airport.
Louise Goldsmith (Con, Chichester West), leader of West Sussex County Council, added: “The decision whether or not to have a second runway at Gatwick is not one that will be made by West Sussex County Council.
“It’s entirely out of our hands but I firmly believe that we have to start planning now for whatever decision is made.
“If there is to be a second runway at Gatwick Airport then we need to consider how best to mitigate the effects on local communities and the environment, which includes the effects on air quality and how that might affect people.
“We also have to consider how best to make sure the infrastructure and services that are needed for more jobs, new business opportunities, homes, as well as the increase in traffic and transport, are provided.”
Meanwhile the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), which has opposed a second runway, has this week predicted that pollution levels around the airport could become much worse than the Commission forecast.
Brendon Sewill, chairman at GACC, said: “The Airports Commission are seriously underestimating future pollution levels.
“First they are looking at 2030 when the new runway would only be half full; and second, their estimates of future road traffic are only about half of what would be created by an airport larger than Heathrow today.
“There will be around 100,000 extra cars per day in the Gatwick area plus a ten-fold increase in freight and commercial vehicles – all adding to pollution.”
According to Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) the real show stopper was the fact that Gatwick was only served by the single railway line, meaning that most new passengers and workers would use the road network, leading to more vehicle emissions across the area.
Sally Pavey, chair of CAGNE, explained: “The media already report of the commuter misery on the Brighton Main Line, so how is the single line meant to deal with are the 95 million passengers and 90,000 workers for Gatwick as well as deal with the Southeast’s natural growth of commuters endeavouring to reach London and work?
“This railway line can not be expanded and so cars will be on our roads increasing the pollution levels here.”
But Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “It is highly significant that first decision by the Airports Commission after the election is to consult on the issue of air quality. It shows that the issue has now become fundamental to the choice that lies ahead. It is an issue that cannot be ignored.
“This decision obviously follows the Supreme Court judgement last month which requires the new Government to prepare a plan to meet EU air quality regulations. The area around Heathrow currently breaches legal air quality limits and it defies common sense that a third runway - with hundreds of thousands of extra car journeys that it would bring - is the solution to the problem. Air quality has been a showstopper for Heathrow before and it is now clear that it will be again.
“In contrast, Gatwick has never breached legal air quality limits and its location means it can guarantee that it never will. This decision is about the economy and the environment. Gatwick’s plan is simpler, cheaper, faster and quieter - above all it can actually happen.”
The Commission’s work is available on the Government’s website.
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