London Gatwick passengers firmly against planned airport expansion, poll reveals

The overwhelming majority of London Gatwick passengers are against plans to expand the airport, according to a new poll.

Around 40 Extinction Rebellion [XR] activists carried out the poll at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal on Saturday [April 13], addressing over 300 passengers directly about the proposed expansion of Gatwick Airport.

Many of the activists came from Brighton, Lewes, Dorking Reigate, Redhill and also from Farnborough, which is also threatened with airport expansion

The famous Red Rebels were also there, focussing arriving passengers on the plight of planet Earth, now acknowledged in 2023 to have warmed to an average of 1.5ºC above the pre-industrial average, which is the government's warming target for 2050.

The passengers were asked how they felt about the planned growth in emissions which will accompany the projected increase of passenger numbers to 80 million a year. Sticker boards were used to record their reactions.

The survey showed that 90% of passengers chose answers that were explicitly against any expansion of Gatwick Airport.

A six-month government planning inspectorate examination is sitting until August to examine the airport’s plans for expansion.

If allowed, the changes would make Gatwick passenger numbers as large as Heathrow’s, increasing carbon emissions by well over one million tonnes a year, with the Government’s Carbon Budget Delivery Plan already in jeopardy.

The future combined effect of Heathrow and Gatwick is projected to account for 1/3 of the UK’s total carbon budget.

James Knapp, a father of three from Dorking, who took part in the outreach event, said: “Today’s visit by XR has demonstrated that Gatwick passengers are well aware of the dangers posed by increasing emissions, it was startling just how many of the passengers placed their sticker next to ‘CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL WE MUST ACT LIKE IT IS’ and ‘GATWICK IS BIG ENOUGH’.

“There is clearly very little appetite from passengers for expansion, which is just as well because there is no carbon budget available for it, we should be looking at ways to reduce flying.”

Jonathan Essex, Green group leader on Surrey County Council, said: “Gatwick should not be competing with Heathrow to be the UK's biggest climate polluter whilst claiming its climate impacts are insignificant.

“Instead the Government should put a moratorium on airport expansion and establish a framework to limit demand for air travel, as called for by the UK’s official climate change advisors.

“Airport expansion is completely at odds with the climate emergency. Gatwick's plans are greenwash of the highest order.”

George Hibberd, a former easyJet pilot at Gatwick and community member at Safe Landing, said: "If Gatwick were serious about their climate commitments, they would be reducing flights whilst re-designing airport infrastructure as required for genuinely clean and green aircraft.

“This could increase jobs in both the short and long-run - whilst securing a habitable planet and improving air quality for both employees and the local community.”

A London Gatwick spokesperson said: “London Gatwick has thoroughly assessed the environmental impacts of its growth proposals and are confident they will withstand independent scrutiny as part of the examination process.

“The government has clear policies on climate change and other environmental topics and London Gatwick has a proven track record of meeting targets and reducing its environmental impacts.

“London Gatwick is delighted with the strong support shown by many local people and businesses during the recent hearings, who all voiced their desire to see the airport grow for the economic benefit of the area. We thank them for their ongoing support.

“We have accelerated our plans by committing to investing £250 million to reach net zero for emissions under the airport’s direct control (Scope 1 and 2) by 2030 - 10 years ahead of our previous target. We are also working with government and our partners to reduce emissions across the aviation industry by 2050.”

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