Campaigners protest over Gatwick runway plans as crucial hearings get underway

ITV News Meridian's James Dunham reports on the demonstration

Gatwick's bid to bring its emergency runway into regular use has been met with protest ahead of crucial hearings by the Government's planning team to examine the details.

The rally, involving community groups, residents and activists took place at a hotel in Crawley where the first public hearing is taking place.

The airport is looking for permission to move its emergency runway and bring it into regular use to create what it says would be tens of thousands of jobs each year and an extra £1 billion to the region.

Campaigners are desperate for the airport's decade-long expansion plan to to be halted claiming that the plans will bring environmental destruction during a climate crisis.

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Sally Pavey, chair of Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, the umbrella aviation community and environment group for Sussex, Surrey, and Kent said, "If this application to build a new runway is permitted, it will have a devastating impact on both people’s lives and the environment.

"That is why it is so important that CAGNE are here – not just today, but every day of the hearing, with our qualified team of Kings Council, plus surface transport, aviation noise and air quality expert team, as well as supporting NGO’s tackling the subject of Jet Zero and the environmental destruction of our planet."

Chair of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign Peter Barclay said, "In the past twelve months the government's own Climate Change Committee has said there should be no airport expansion.

"Temperatures are the highest ever recorded and weather patterns are becoming increasingly extreme - who could conceive allowing such a project to go ahead?"

Gatwick Airport announced its runway plans in 2018 Credit:

GACC Vice Chairman, Jonathan Essex added, "The government should not permit Gatwick to compete with Heathrow to be the UK's biggest climate polluter.

"Instead there should be a moratorium on airport expansion until a framework to limit demand for air travel is in place, as called for by the UK’s official climate change advisors."

The examination phase of the application process is the furthest point Gatwick has reached so far.

Inspectors will spend six months scrutinising the proposals and will also visit the runway and terminal buildings.

Fire crew manager George Treadwell at Gatwick Airport shows off an engine powered by recycled vegetable oil

Bosses at the airport will highlight Gatwick's commitment to reach net zero by 2030 and initiatives to help cut carbon emissions.

This week, it was revealed the airport's vehicle emissions have been cut by 90% because they're now fuelled by recycled vegetable oil instead of diesel.

Steve Kelso, Head of Engineering, London Gatwick, said, "The implementation of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil to power our 300 diesel vehicles is an exciting milestone for London Gatwick’s sustainability journey and a big step in our fleet transition.

"It is vital we invest in sustainably sourced HVO to reduce emissions in all areas as soon as possible on our journey to reach net zero for our own Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.

“From the buses that pick passengers up from the long-stay car parks, to operations vehicles that patrol the airfield, HVO is now being used to fuel vehicles throughout the airport.

"As we continue to grow, we are making sustainability part of everything we do here at London Gatwick and we are committed to finding solutions and working differently to meet our ambitious targets."

Gatwick Airport says within ten years of the operation going live, there will be less noise at the airport than there was in 2019.

Once inspectors have made their recommendation to the Government the Secretary of State for Transport will then decide on whether to approve or refuse the runway application.

In an election year, the future of Gatwick Airport will likely be high up the campaign agenda.

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