Mixed environmental report card for plans to expand Gatwick Airport

A sustainability review of the plans to expand Gatwick Airport has concluded that the economic and social impacts will largely be positive, while the environmental impacts will be much more mixed.

According to the British Airports Authority’s Gatwick Sustainability Review, areas of ‘negative alignment’ with sustainability objectives were largely found in the environmental sector with increases in road traffic, waste production, energy and water consumption as well as some development of land outside the existing airport boundary.

The review also states that the expansion’s impact on air quality, ground noise, wildlife and ecological resources, human health and local town centre vitality are not clear.

On the positive side, the review identifies some positive impacts on protection of the local environment as a consequence of BAA Gatwick’s mitigation efforts in that area.

BAA estimates that by 2010 Gatwick Airport will be handling 40 million passengers per year, compared with just under 30 million in 1998. To meet the demand, a 10 year expansion plan has been produced.

In 1999, BAA conducted public consultations on the planned expansion as well as the Sustainability Review, which was undertaken by Stanger Science & Environment. Stanger brought together representatives from Crawley Borough Council, West Sussex Country Council, Surrey County Council, BAA and sustainability charity Forum for the Future to assess the impacts the expansion will have.

“Increasingly, developers are getting together with local councils at an earlier stage in the planning process,” Dr Sarah Davidson, principal consultant at Stanger, told edie. But what made the Review Steering Group innovative was the inclusion of a specialist sustainability charity, Forum for the Future.

Davidson also says that the review broke new ground in so far as the Steering Group had no established methodology upon which it could base its assessment. “There was no prototype tool for assessing the sustainability of the development,” says Davidson, who believes a Steering Group was in a better position to develop a methodology than a lone consultant working in isolation would have been.

The next stage of BAA’s Gatwick expansion progress is getting underway. “We’re revising our development strategy based on the review and other feedback,” Laura Garrod, BAA Gatwick’s environment strategy manager, told edie. Once the revisions have been agreed and discussed with local councils, BAA will publish a final draft on the expected impacts by early summer. According to Garrod, the expansion’s impacts on resource use and climate change are likely to be covered in more detail in the final draft, but “it’ll be a living document and will probably be reviewed every year.”

There are no precise dates for commencement of expansion work at Gatwick. Garrod says that BAA will react to changes in airlines’ activities and expand accordingly.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie