The announcement that a decision on Gatwick Airport expansion has been delayed was met with frustration by countryside campaigners.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says that by postponing the decision until late next year, the Government has left rural communities in limbo.
“We are disappointed that they keep delaying such an important announcement,” said CPRE Sussex director Kia Trainor.
“The focus should not be on whether Heathrow can meet air quality targets, but the fact that expanding either Heathrow or Gatwick will cause significant and unacceptable levels of air pollution.
“With the delayed decision we are still left in a minefield of uncertainty and this will affect local decisions which are being made right now, such as housing targets in local plans and investment in infrastructure.
“A final decision to rule out airport expansion in the South East should be made and it should be communicated soon.”
Earlier this year the Chairman of CPRE Sussex, David Johnson, warned against any airport expansion in the south-east due to fears of major long-term environmental and health damage.
Campaigners say a new runway at Gatwick would breach climate change targets and have pledged to continue to fight the lingering threat of expansion with a campaign of common sense.
“We will fight on,” said Sally Pavey, CPRE Trustee and Chair of Communities against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE).
“We have the key facts that we have presented time and time again, and we will go back and present them again.
“We have to try to re-address the north-south divide. Gatwick does not link up to any parts of the UK and we just have to keep reiterating that time and time again.
“We have to explain once again the climate change issue, because building a new runway at Gatwick will breach climate change targets. Gatwick is also not accountable for the light pollution it causes - nearly 13,000 people were harmfully affected by the noise of Gatwick night flights in 2014 that is a rise of 15% since the previous year.
“As part of our campaign we are urging people to complain about noise at night if they suffer light pollution as well.”
CPRE says that a second runway at Gatwick would radically change the face of West Sussex, requiring an estimated 45,000 new houses and a road network capable of taking an extra 1000,000 vehicles.
“Airports are no longer publicly owned services like railway stations, but privatised assets owned by hedge funds and foreign investors to be traded like football clubs to maximise profit for shareholders not travelers,” said David Johnson.
“More airport capacity anywhere will mean more use of fossil fuels and continued global warming; can we not begin to understand where events like the devastating Storm Desmond came from?”
“It is time for politicians to look beyond short-term economic gain and take the long view.”
Brendon Sewill, chairman of Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) said that GACC was not surprised by the delay.
“There are huge environmental problems at Gatwick as well as at Heathrow,” he said. “Gatwick does not provide an easy answer.
“Three times as many people as at present, many of them in Crawley and Horsham, would be affected by serious aircraft noise.
“Over 50,000 people would, according to the Airports Commission, suffer worse air quality as a result of a second Gatwick runway. The road and rail system around Gatwick just could not cope with an airport eventually larger than Heathrow today.
“Nick Clegg has said (article in The Standard last week) that the Gatwick area is ‘unpopulated’. Apparently 110,000 people in Crawley don’t exist!
“The government decision to delay will do no harm as there is plenty of unused runway capacity at both Stansted and Luton; indeed GACC believes that the need for new runway has been exaggerated by Gatwick airport for their own commercial reasons.”
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