Gatwick hails ‘improved’ air quality in 2014

Sussex airport also maintains that Heathrow expansion would be ‘unlawful because of continued breaches in air quality standards’

Gatwick Airport remains “confident” it will be chosen ahead of Heathrow for expansion, after a report showed that air quality around the Sussex site improved last year and continues to comply with UK air pollution limits.

Gatwick Airport is keen to build a second runway

Gatwick Airport is keen to build a second runway

The findings were published yesterday (July 29) in Reigate and Barnstead council’s independent air quality report, which is presented to Defra every year as part of the authority’s obligations through its Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in nearby Horley.

First declared in 2002, the Horley AQMA is the principal site for monitoring the air quality impact of Gatwick Airport, and findings of the report covering 2014 show that the highest annual average concentration of nitrogen dioxide was measured at the Horley Gardens Estate at 28ugm3 (microgrammes per cubic metre).

This compares to the highest concentration in 2013 of 28ugm3 and 33ugm3 in 2012 at the same site.

In addition, the UK annual average objective limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — 40ugm3 — has been met at all three monitoring sites within the Horley AQMA since monitoring began there in 2003.

Meanwhile, the national objective limit for particulate matter PM2.5 of 25ugm3 has also been met within the AQMA for at least the past 12 years.

Last year, ozone concentrations in the vicinity of the airport also met UK air quality standards for the first time ever, although Gatwick Airport says it is now responsible for any local ozone pollution.

Table featured in the council's air quality report

Table featured in the Reigate and Barnstead council air quality report showing air pollution levels around Gatwick (click to enlarge)

As a result, Gatwick Airport — which is keen to expand its capacity and has been a vocal opponent of plans to construct a third runway at rival Heathrow Airport in West London — again criticised the Airports Commission’s decision to recommend expansion at Heathrow earlier this month (see story).

Gatwick said it had taken legal advice which confirmed expansion at Heathrow would be unlawful because of resulting expected breaches in air quality standards in West London, adding that the risk of air quality limit breaches “was never factored into the Commission’s final conclusions”.


In contrast, the airport said: “Gatwick has never breached EU and UK annual air quality limits and has guaranteed it will to maintaining this 100% record if it built a second runway — something it can do as it is located in a largely rural, sparsely populated area, and also has one of the cleanest aircraft fleets in Europe.”

Alastair McDermid, Airports Commission director at Gatwick, said: “It seems incredible that the Airports Commission has paid so little attention to the issue of air quality, especially when it has prevented Heathrow expansion in the past.

“The final decision rests with the government, which is legally bound to consider the issue properly. We remain confident Gatwick will be chosen as our plans strike the right balance between delivering the extra capacity the UK needs, while also minimising the impact on the environment.”

Meanwhile, it was recently estimated in a US study that aircraft emissions could be responsible for the deaths of up to 16,000 people around the world each year (see story).


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