Chris Packham backs campaigners calling for Gatwick Airport's expansion plans to be halted

gatwick airport expansion
Gatwick Airport from above. Credit: ITV Meridian

Wildlife expert, Chris Packham, has joined calls from campaigners who say the potential expansion of Gatwick Airport should be halted.

The West Sussex site wants to bring its emergency runway into routine use, in what it says would be a sustainable and climate conscious way.

Currently, Gatwick is the world's busiest single runway airport, with its stretch of tarmac handling a take-off or landing multiple times a minute.

Chris Packham today told ITV Meridian the emergency runway should not be brought into use until the aviation industry can prove it is sustainable.

He understood that investment needs to happen, but that the focus should be on moving away from fossil fuels first.

He said: "We need to cut back on fossil fuels. And at the moment, we don't have a sustainable aviation fuel of any meaningful nature. And so until we can change the way that we fly, if we continue to fly, we've got to cut back on flights, not increase the number of those.

"And therefore, we need to invest in other means of transporting ourselves around when it comes to Europe and indeed globally, but we can't continue to burn fossil fuels."

Watch: Chris Packham backs calls for Gatwick's expansion to be halted.

Gatwick Airport has previously insisted that the plans to bring its Northern Runway into regular use would be low impact, and would use existing flight paths.

The site was also the first 'London' branded airport to go carbon-neutral, and it says it will hit Net Zero for its own emissions by 2030.

However, campaigners on the ground at the site today said they're not convinced by the proposals, raising concerns about the impact on air pollution any potential expansion may have.

Pete Knapp, an air quality scientist, told ITV Meridian the plans should not go ahead. He said: "We can't expand Gatwick Airport.

"It's a fantasy at an epic scale. I'm here to talk about the problems behind the air pollution that are created from aeroplanes that are just not figured into any of these calculations.

"There are particles that are so small they can get into the lungs and into the blood directly. We can see those health effects, but we're not attributing it to airports."

Watch: Pete Knapp, air quality scientist.

Gatwick Airport declined to comment during the examination phase of its plans, but did highlight that modelling on air pollution has been done.

Documents published by the Sussex site say that the expansion would have "no exceedance of national air quality standards".

The airport also work with its partners to meet the Government's Net Zero target, and recognises the need for the whole industry to act to reduce carbon emissions.

The examination phase of the expansion plans began in February and is expected to take six months, and if approved the second runway could be operational by 2030.

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