Two wildlife and landscape experts have added their voices to conservation campaigners' attacks on the idea of a second runway at Gatwick Airport.

Dr Tony Whitbread, chief executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, and landscape author Dave Bangs have stressed their strong opposition to moves for another runway to be built.

Both have supplied statements to the Charlwood-based Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) group, which is also dead-set against the second runway idea.

GACC has posted their statements on its website.

In his comments, Dr Whitbread stated that the idea of another runway at Gatwick “is a great worry.”

Dr Whitbread wrote: “Gatwick Airport at present has a huge ecological impact and adding an extra runway will make this worse.

“More than this, however, it is the sign of a local economy heading in completely the wrong direction.” Dr Whitbread continued: “The Sussex Wildlife Trusts opposes the construction of a second runway at Gatwick - a position we have held for many years.

“Aviation strategy should be based on a planned programme of a significant and continuing reduction of its environmental impact.

“This should have two elements: first, the reduction of its direct impact from land take for the airport itself and any associated development, and second, a programme of continuous reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to reach an 80% reduction by 2050 in line with Government targets.”

Dr Whitbread stated: “The direct impact of expansion on the environment would be unacceptable, causing significant damage to wildlife in the area.”

Citing GACC's recent statement on an independent study commissioned by West Sussex County Council and the Gatwick Diamond business association, which indicated that between 30,000 and 45,000 new houses would be needed if a new runway is built, Dr Whitbread continued: “This equates to a new town in Sussex about the same size that Crawley is now, and could mean the urbanisation of much of that part of Sussex - possibly resulting in the towns of Horsham and Crawley combining and ending up as one continual conurbation.”

But he added: “However, one of the greatest threats to wildlife and the environment is climate change.”

Pointing to aviation as 'a major source of greenhouse gases” and “the fastest growing contributor to climate change,” he continued: “This clearly needs to be reversed. “The current reliance on air travel, let alone any increase in this reliance through airport expansion, will drive a highly vulnerable local economy that lacks resilience to likely future change.

“The economy of the area around Gatwick now has the opportunity to develop in ways that support the environment, rather than damage it.”

Dr Whitbread concluded: “A campaign for an expanded Gatwick Airport is to head in the wrong direction and promote an economy that is not fit for purpose.”

Landscape author Dave Bangs stressed the importance of the area he said would “be destroyed by the new runway” as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).

Citing the neighbouring countryside of Crawley's Langley Green neighbourhood, which he stated was “blighted by the Gatwick second runway proposal,” he noted: “The area described contains only one of the three SNCI's to be destroyed by the new runway. “There is another at Rowley Wood and another at Horleyland Wood, east of the Brighton line. “These areas of Rowley and east of the railway are as important as the Langley Green countryside, and the same is true of Lowfield Heath too.”

Having described the array of wildlife the area supports in eloquent language, Mr Bangs ended his statement, stressing “And ‘on watch’ is what we all must be to prevent the destruction of this lovely place.”