Gatwick MPs call on Transport Secretary: “Gatwick Airport must end misleading air quality claims”

Gatwick is misleading local residents about the environmental impact of their plans to build a second runway, a group of South East MPs warned today. The MPs expressed their concerns about air quality claims and night flights in a letter to the Transport Secretary.

The Gatwick Coordination Group (GCG) is calling on the Transport Secretary to stop the airport from running advertising campaigns which contradict expert environmental evidence, and mislead their constituents.

Gatwick has repeatedly claimed the area around the airport “has never and will never breach legal air quality limits” and that it is the “greener” option for expansion.

But these claims ignore significant evidence in Sir Howard Davies’ independent Airports Commission report, the group of MPs, councillors and local representatives warn.

The GCG are demanding Gatwick makes clear the real impact of a second runway on the local environment to nearby residents.

  • Gatwick Airport claims: “Gatwick has never breached EU or UK annual air quality limits and the airport has committed to maintaining this record if a second runway is built.” (Link to source)
  • Airports Commission says: Air quality in the Gatwick area has previously breached the National Air Quality Objective. (Page 39, Final Report, Airports Commission)
  • Gatwick Airport claims: “Expansion at Gatwick would give the country the economic benefit it needs at a dramatically lower environmental cost.” (Link to source)
  • Airports Commission says: Air pollution at health based receptors will be worse at an expanded Gatwick than the Heathrow Airport Limited proposal.(Table 9.2, Page 191, Final Report, Airports Commission)

 

Chair of the GCG and Reigate MP Crispin Blunt said:

“Gatwick’s environmental claims ignore the evidence and are misleading local residents. Gatwick repeatedly claims that it has never breached air quality limits and is the greener option for expansion. But independent evidence from the Airports Commission shows this to be untrue.

“That is why we are calling on the Transport Secretary to intervene immediately to stop Gatwick from making misleading environmental claims.

“We have also objected to the Department for Transport drawing up plans for night flights at an expanded Gatwick, which would subject over 60,000 people in the Gatwick area to over 20 hours of continuous aircraft noise.

“It is incredible to think that the Department for Transport is contemplating this when the Airports Commission made a stronger case for Heathrow which included a clear and viable recommendation for a ban on night flights”.

About the Gatwick Coordination Group

The Gatwick Coordination Group was formed in June 2014 to represent serious local concerns over plans for a second runway at Gatwick Airport, as shortlisted by the Airports Commission.

Parliamentary membership of the group is as follows:

 •          Crispin Blunt MP – Member of Parliament for Reigate (Chairman)

•           Sir Paul Beresford MP – Member of Parliament for Mole Valley

•           Nusrat Ghani MP – Member of Parliament for Wealden

•           Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP – Member of Parliament for Arundel and South Downs

•           Jeremy Quin MP – Member of Parliament for Horsham

•           Tom Tugendhat MBE MP – Member of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling

•           Henry Smith MP – Member of Parliament for Crawley

•           Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP – Member of Parliament for Mid Sussex

The group also includes representatives of local authorities, parish councils and civil society.  We share the common objective of ensuring a critical examination of the case for a second runway at Gatwick Airport, and that its consequences are understood.

Text of letter:

Dear Patrick,

Gatwick Airport Limited, Gatwick Airport Expansion, Air Quality & Night Flight Limits

I write to ask that you intervene to prevent Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) from continuing to mislead local residents as to the environmental impacts of their expansion plans.

Air Quality

The Airports Commission evidence in the attached appendix exposes GAL’s environmental claims in their advertising misrepresent the reality of the impact expansion would have on neighbouring communities.

As you will be aware, GAL has undertaken an extensive advertising campaign across London print media. In those advertisements, GAL has repeatedly claimed that “the area around Gatwick Airport has never and will never breach legal air quality limits”. Moreover, their press releases and media interviews have consistently pointed to the fact that expansion at Gatwick would be the “greener” option for expansion:

“We have always maintained that this decision is about balancing the economy and the environment. Expansion at Gatwick would give the country the economic benefit it needs at a dramatically lower environmental cost.” 

Press release: the clear choice now facing Britain, 10th December 2015

http://www.mediacentre.gatwickairport.com/press-releases/2015/15-12-10-the-clear-choice-now-facing-britain-growth-with-gatwick-or-inertia-at-heathrow.aspx

It is absolutely vital that local residents and the public, not to mention the Cabinet, have accurate facts available to them and that they are not misled by a well-funded PR campaign by a promoter.

The assertions made by GAL are not supported by the evidence of the Airports Commission. Indeed, the evidence demonstrates that in many instances, expansion at Gatwick is far from having a “dramatically lower environmental cost” compared to the Heathrow Airport Limited proposal.

1. Air pollution at health based receptors will be worse at an expanded Gatwick than the Heathrow Airport Limited proposal. (Table 9.2, Final Report, Airports Commission)

2. More households will be placed “at risk” as a result of Gatwick expansion compared to the Heathrow Airport Limited proposal. (Table 9.3, Final Report, Airports Commission)

3. GAL have delayed the full diversion of the A23 – a measure they describe will “improve air quality” - to alleviate risk to their investors. (Multiple sources, see appendix)

Moreover, GAL’s assertion that it has never and will never breach air quality limits is also disproved by both Airports Commission evidence and developments since the publication of the final report:

4. Air Quality in the Gatwick area has previously breached the National Air Quality Objective. (Page 39, Air Quality Local Assessment Detailed Emissions Inventory and Dispersion Modelling, Jacob’s for the Airports Commission)

5. Since the Airports Commission published its final report on 1 July 2015, an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been designated within 1 mile of the proposed boundary of an expanded Gatwick. (http://www.crawley.gov.uk/pw/web/PUB266050)

In the interests of reassuring communities close to the airport, I ask that you respond to this letter to confirm that the Department for Transport will be investigating the impact that expansion at Gatwick will have on local air quality and the impact on the Hazelwick roundabout AQMA in particular.

In the interests of ensuring high quality public discourse, can I also ask that you consider writing to the Chief Executive of GAL to ask that he ensures the comments he makes do not cause local residents to believe there will be no impact on the local environment at all.

In the interests of establishing trust with the local community, I also ask that you consider challenging GAL to improve local understanding of airport-related air quality impacts in the local community by funding air quality monitors and publishing real time information on their readings. This should include a live monitor in the Hazelwick roundabout area where the new AQMA has been designated and where the majority of the properties placed “at risk”- including a secondary school - by Gatwick expansion are located.

Night flights

We understand your department is trying to create a set of mitigation measures for a second runway at Gatwick, equivalent to those suggested by the Airports Commission for Heathrow. We understand that the conditions being developed do not involve a reduction or freezing in the current number of night flights nor guaranteed respite for residents. This means that, should Gatwick get the go-ahead, 60,000+ people in the Gatwick area will have at least 20+ hours of continuous aircraft noise. Fewer than 10% will be entitled to Gatwick’s Council Tax compensation scheme. In our opinion, the fact that you are engaged in work to try and ameliorate the effects of a second runway at Gatwick around night flights to a standard well short of those already proposed for Heathrow, further demonstrates the relative weakness of the case for Gatwick. We would be grateful for your authoritative briefing on what your officials are trying to achieve.

As I am sure you appreciate, it is vital that runway promoters communicate honestly with their local residents as to the impacts of their local schemes. I trust that you are as interested as I am that GAL do not continue to mislead communities neighbouring the airport regarding the impact of expansion, and that GAL take the necessary measures to re-establish trust.

Yours Ever,

Crispin

Crispin Blunt on behalf of the Gatwick Coordination Group