South East Assembly rejects second Gatwick runway as unsustainable

The South East Regional Assembly has warned that a second runway and third Terminal at Gatwick would be unsustainable and hinder efforts for a long term development plan for the region.

The Assembly is currently drawing up plans for its 20 year vision on development in the area which, it says, will be done with close attention to strong sustainable principles.

However, with uncertainty over the Gatwick proposals hanging over its head – Gatwick’s development is on hold until a decision is reached over Heathrow’s equally unpopular expansion plans (see related story) – the Assembly cannot plan for its own future.

The Assembly’s planning committee, responding to BAA’s consultation on its proposed Masterplan for Gatwick Airport, said that Government plans for massive airport expansion in the South East conflict with its own Sustainable Development Strategy, its Energy Strategy, and much of its wider Transport Strategy.

Not only would the expansion of Gatwick add to CO2 emissions from aviation, but, the Assembly says, the lack of provision for public transport access in the plans would mean that passengers would have to rely on their own private cars to get there.

This would exacerbate the problem even further, and add to congestion problems on the roads around the area.

Councillor Keith Mitchell, Chairman of the Assembly’s Regional Planning Committee, said: “The Committee finds an additional runway and third terminal at Gatwick thoroughly unsustainable, particularly in the light of our new research. Government needs to rethink its aviation policy to bring it into line with its wider approach to sustainable development.”

The Assembly commissioned research from independent consultants Roger Tym & Partners recommending that the overall Government aviation policy is substantially modified so as to develop a more sustainable approach to air travel.

This suggests the government move away from the ‘predict and provide’ model – which looks at how many flights are being sold, predicts a model for the future, and prepares to offer enough flights for that model.

An Assembly spokesperson told edie news that the projected demand was being artificially inflated by cheap airlines selling flights for as little as £1.

This doesn’t create a true picture of demand and the government should concentrate on demand management options, such as increasing ticket prices to account for environmental impacts, instead, the report says.

In addition, it finds that, overall, the Aviation White Paper does not comply with the Integrated Regional Framework (IRF), RPG9 and Regional Spatial Strategy 9.

Michelle Kirby, Senior Associate at Roger Tym & Partners said: “At the current time, the available evidence base does not provide any reason why either the general recommendations of the Aviation White Paper on levels of growth, or the recommendations in relation to the individual airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick should be supported. It concludes that the White Paper does not fit with many national policies and is inherently unsustainable.”

By David Hopkins

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