Government urged to block Gatwick airport expansion plans

EXCLUSIVE: An Early Day Motion (EDM) urging the transport secretary to block Gatwick airport’s expansion plans has been submitted today by former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

Gatwick Airport. Source:Christopher Hilton, Geograph

The EDM has been submitted and the text is set to go online by tomorrow, but ENDS can reveal that it raises concerns that the development consent order application submitted by London Gatwick airport and received by the Planning Inspectorate on 6 July would avoid the “appropriate public consultation and scrutiny required for such a major planning decision”. 

The plans are part of Gatwick Airport's “Northern Runway Plan” which were first mooted in the mid 2010s, and involve repositioning the centre line on the airport’s smaller, northern runway to comply with international standards, allowing it to be used alongside its main runway. 

The EDM also urges that the government listen to the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) advice in its recent report on the UK’s progress in reducing emissions, which states that no airport expansions should proceed until a “UK-wide capacity management framework is in place to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects”. 

This, the CCC said, should be developed by the Department of Transport over the next 12 months with the aim to be operational by the end of 2024. 

In its recent report, the CCC also warned that the risk of the UK not meeting its legally binding commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050 is higher than before.

Lucas told ENDS that the CCC’s advice is “crystal clear”. 

She continued: “A second runway at Gatwick would be nothing short of a climate crime – leading to thousands of extra flights a year, increasing noise, light and air pollution, and costing a staggering £9.1 billion to clean up the extra carbon emissions alone.”

Alongside the concerns about the impact of this airport expansion on climate change, the EDM also expresses concerns about the impact on residents. It states that noise levels close to Gatwick are already considered “above the recommendations by the World Health Organisation” and that there are “particle number concentrations in the air similar to those measured close to a highly trafficked road in central London”. 

READ MORE: Climate Committee report: 7 key insights on the UK’s progress on reducing emissions

The expansion, which is estimated to cost £2.2 billion, is set to "secure the long-term future of the airport” according to Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate.

Wingate said: “If approved, our plan will also improve airport resilience, meet future passenger demand, and increase competition in the London airport market, by providing vital new international connections to support ‘Global Britain’."

According to a YouGov poll of over 3,000 people, 43% of people surveyed supported the airport’s plans, 12% opposed the plans, and the remaining people surveyed expressed indifference. 

A London Gatwick spokesperson said: "We fully acknowledge the climate emergency and urgent need for the aviation industry to take action to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“ London Gatwick is advancing its plans by committing over £250 million towards achieving net zero for scope 1 and 2 emissions under its direct control by 2030.  We are also engaging with partners at the airport to reduce their emissions and working with the wider industry through Sustainable Aviation and the Department of Transport.”