Gatwick thrust into ‘political game’ over election for London’s mayor

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A prominent campaigner against the expansion of Gatwick Airport has called for an environmental audit to be carried out.

Sally Pavey, of the Commuters Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE), was reacting after a decision on Heathrow’s future was delayed for six months for a review on environment impact.

Mrs Pavey claimed Gatwick was now part of a ‘political game’ designed to keep Heathrow expansion out of the headlines in the run-up to the London mayor elections next May.

She also says that Greg Clark, the Tunbridge Wells MP, is a ‘party’ to the delicate politics of the issue. Writing in the Times this week, she said: “What is frustrating is that no environmental audit has been undertaken on Gatwick, as it would be the same size as Heathrow but with one railway line that can’t be expanded – a new line is ruled out – and the M23 that would be full before Gatwick is finished.”

She added: “It would seem that at best we are being used in a political game and one Greg Clark is party to, to stop Zac Goldsmith from triggering a by-election and to appease (London mayor) Boris Johnson.”

Gatwick expansion would mean 560,000 aircraft in the air and almost 100m passengers annually, she claimed.

Mr Clark, who is part of the cabinet sub-committee which considered Sir Howard Davies’ report on aviation expansion for the Airports’ Commission, declined to make a substantive comment.

But in a statement, he said: “The government has a duty to consider the Davies recommendations meticulously and so has asked for further assessment of the proposals to be carried out. This is expected to be concluded by the summer.

“As a member of the cabinet sub-committee charged with considering the Davies report I am required to consider its recommendations fairly and carefully and so it is obviously not appropriate to pass comment on the options under consideration before a decision is taken.”

Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said: “There is now a clear choice facing Britain: growth with Gatwick or inertia at Heathrow with an illegal scheme that has failed time and time again.

“We have always maintained that this decision is about balancing the economy and the environment. Expansion at Gatwick would give the country the economic benefit it needs at a dramatically lower environmental cost.

“We are glad that the government recognises that more work on environmental impact needs to be done. Air quality, for example, is a public health priority and obviously the legal safeguards around it cannot be wished away.

“Even Heathrow’s most vocal supporters must now realise a third runway at Heathrow will never take off as the environmental hurdles are just too high. Momentum is now behind Gatwick as it becomes ever clearer that it is the obvious solution. We will continue to work closely with government to take forward our plan which is legal, affordable, and can actually deliver for Britain.”

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