Warning of serious increase in air pollution

CPRE Kent has made final comments to the Airports Commission raising concerns about the serious impact on air quality of a new runway at Gatwick or Heathrow.

Any additional runway capacity will damage the UK’s efforts to control its carbon emissions.
And, as the UK Supreme Court has stated, the Air Quality Directive requires no detriment to existing air quality.

CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport said: “It is impossible to increase the number of flights from any airport without increasing air pollution. We trust that the Commission and the Government will at last recognise this and rule out expansion to protect the health, welfare and economy of the UK.”



CPRE Kent makes the point that the Airports Commission is assessing the economic benefits of a new runway operating at full capacity; while looking at the environmental impact based on it operating at half or less capacity (in 2030).

The forecasts of pollution caused by road traffic are seriously understated.  Again the Commission refers to the year 2030 when a new runway would be operating at only half or less of full capacity. It also ignores the extra road traffic due to increased employment at the many new firms attracted to the area – the staff of which would need to travel to and from work, mostly by car.

In its response to the main consultation by the Airports Commission, GACC calculated that a Gatwick second runway, at full capacity, would create 100,000 extra road vehicles a day in the Gatwick area.

Furthermore, the Commission’s own forecast of a tenfold increase in the amount of freight handled by Gatwick would lead to a substantial increase in the number of commercial vehicles, and a further serious increase in pollution levels.

dartford crossing - flickr, Amanda Slater

A particular problem affecting Kent would be the increased traffic using the Dartford crossing, which would significantly worsen pollution around the eastern M25, and all its feeder roads. CPRE Kent believes that this aspect has received little, if any, consideration.

There seems to have been be no recognition that on 30 April and 1 May, 2015, the Supreme Court delivered judgement that the Government is legally bound to take action to implement Article 13 of the EU Air Quality Directive which places limits on the maximum annual level of pollution.

Dr Newport said: “We believe this judgement is likely to rule out both runway options at Heathrow, and also a second Gatwick runway.”

Kent countryside by Grant Cherrington, flickr

Kent is fortunate in that at present air quality is comparatively good, apart from near some main roads. Rural areas enjoy better air quality than urban areas.

Dr Newport said: “We do not condone any reduction in air quality. People who live in the country expect to breathe clean air, not air which is only slightly better than a busy city street.

“Higher pollution levels, with their impact on health and habitats, are not acceptable for present or future generations.”

To read a full version of our submission click here.

June 2nd 2015

Comments are closed.