The UK’s second largest airport is hoping to bring its emergency runway into routine use alongside its main runway, boosting passenger capacity by around 65 per cent.
This is despite the fact that passenger numbers have plummeted since the start of the pandemic.
A public consultation on the £500 million expansion plans will run from 9 September to 1 December. If successful, the second runway could be operational by 2029.
The airport claimed that its expansion “will be delivered in a sustainable way which helps to achieve the government’s overall goal of net zero emissions by 2050”.
However, a calculation from the Green Party estimates that the plans could result in an extra 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted each year.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the planned expansion was “completely incompatible with the UK’s climate targets”.
More flights at Gatwick will cause more noise, pollution and road congestion and undermine what few efforts there are to put us on the path to net zero emissions
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP
“The government should be looking for ways of driving down aviation demand, not facilitating it,” she said.
“More flights at Gatwick will cause more noise, pollution and road congestion and undermine what few efforts there are to put us on the path to net zero emissions.”
Surrey Green Party Councillor Jonathan Essex added: “Converting Gatwick’s emergency runway to support even more flights would be a disaster for the climate.
“The fact that these plans have even been put forward implies that the government just reflects business interests rather than providing leadership on the climate.”
On Wednesday, local residents and campaigners protested at a site close by to the airport in response to the start of the public consultation.
“More flights will mean more noise and sleep deprivation for people living under flightpaths,” said Charles Lloyd, a local resident from Penshurst in Kent. “Noise has a huge effect on our health and quality of life.”
In a landmark report released in December, the UK’s climate advisers said there can be no new net airport expansion if the country is to meet its target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
Campaigners have repeatedly called for the government to impose a moratorium on new regional airport expansion ahead of Cop26, a major global climate summit to be held in Glasgow in less than two months’ time.
“It is unthinkable that, on the eve of the UK hosting Cop26, any airport expansion should be considered,” said Anne-Marie Nixey, chair of Ramsgate Town Council, who is opposing the expansion of Manston Airport.
“We can’t ignore this any longer, the government needs to lead the way, not be led by the airline industry.”
“Coming so soon after scientists issued a ‘code red’ warning to humanity about the climate crisis, the proposed expansion of Gatwick airport is complete madness,” added a spokesperson for the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport.
“The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport supports the call for an immediate halt on all airport expansion plans – up north, down south, everywhere.”
A government spokesperson said: “The government recognises the varying impact airport expansion can have on both communities and the environment, and encourages airports to make best use of their existing runways.
“We have been clear that every proposal should be judged by the relevant planning authority, taking careful account of environmental impacts and proposed mitigations.”