Air quality revealed as London’s top environmental concern, as first poll since Government’s delayed decision shows support for Gatwick expansion

25 January 2016

Air quality (30%) and the related issue of road congestion (29%) are the environmental challenges that matter most to Londoners, according to the latest YouGov poll on airport expansion.

These results come as the first poll on airport expansion since the Government delayed a final runway decision on environmental grounds showed Gatwick expansion (40%) continues to be London’s preferred choice, compared to Heathrow (34%).  This is the tenth YouGov poll of Londoners where Gatwick is the preferred choice for expansion.

In December, the Government delayed the expected final decision toundertake more work on the environmental impacts of expansion, stating that: “The Airports Commission’s air quality analysis will be tested using the latest projected future concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.”

Gatwick is located to the South of London and, unlike Heathrow in the West, is not surrounded by some of Europe’s most congested motorways.  Consequently, Gatwick has never breached legal air quality limits and can guarantee it will stay within legal levels if it expands.

In contrast, as reported in the Evening Standard, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) readings at one site by Heathrow hit the highest point in eight years last week (Wednesday, 20 January) at 227.59 micrograms (per cubic meter of air).  The annual legal limit is 40 micrograms. 

Gatwick CEO, Stewart Wingate said:

“Air quality is a top concern for Londoners.

“Nobody living in the capital wants to see air quality deteriorate so it is no surprise to see Londoners supporting Gatwick expansion in poll after poll.  Londoners know that Gatwick’s plans come at a much lower environmental cost than other options. 

“Crucially, Gatwick expansion would not lead to illegal levels of pollution and so can actually happen. Momentum is with Gatwick as the debate now firmly focusses on what is best for the economy and the environment.

“The UK economy cannot afford years of more delay - let’s get on and build a new runway at Gatwick.”

Gatwick also scored best on six out of seven key indicators YouGov monitored. The indicators were:

  • Negative impact on quality of life for local residents - Gatwick 37% vs 24%
  • Built at lowest cost to taxpayers – Gatwick 37% vs 19%
  • Encouraging vigorous competition - Gatwick 39% vs 21%
  • How quickly a new runway could be delivered - Gatwick 34% vs 20%
  • Certainty the new runway can be delivered - Gatwick 31% vs 24%
  • Regeneration benefits to local area - Gatwick 38% vs 23%
  • Economic benefits to UK – Gatwick 25% vs 36%


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1129 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th - 14th January 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+).

227.59 ug/m3  was the reading at 2pm at the London Hillingdon (Keats Way) monitoring site on 20/01/2016. 

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