Gatwick Airport told it must not scope out nitrogen impacts on protected sites

The developer of Gatwick Airport’s northern runway expansion must prove in its environmental impact assessment (EIA) that the impacts from nitrogen deposition will not negatively impact nearby European designated sites, the Planning Inspectorate has said.

The proposed Gatwick Airport Northern Runway project involves alterations to the existing northern runway, along with lifting flight restrictions and the development of a new hotel and office spaces.

If given the go-ahead, this would increase passenger flight numbers by 13 million a year by 2038, according to the project’s details, included in the scoping opinion which was adopted earlier this month by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the secretary of state.

The airport currently operates using a single runway and only uses the northern runway when the main runway is closed. 

The developers, Gatwick Airport Ltd, had hoped to scope out the need to monitor any impacts from nitrogen deposition caused by the extra flights, but the Planning Inspectorate has disagreed. 

The developers will now need to include the effects of nitrogen deposition in its ongoing surveys to inform the assessment of the “likely significant effects and any subsequent remedial measures” caused by the use of the northern runway on nearby EU-protected sites. 

This includes any changes to the Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area, Mole Gap and Reigate escarpment SAC, as well as “botanical receptors and areas of ancient woodland”.

The developer must also demonstrate that the effects of dust or changes in water quality will not negatively impact the designated sites, something it had hoped to scope out of the forthcoming environmental statement. 

Earlier this year, the wildlife regulator Natural England updated its legal advice on excess nutrient buildups in SAC catchments, which has effectively frozen house building in south Hampshire.

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