Retired Gatwick GP warns of health impact of Gatwick runway, especially on those vulnerable to asthma and respiratory illness
A retired GP, who worked in Langley Green for nearly 40 years, believes a 2nd Gatwick runway would lead to a ‘disastrous’ increase in Crawley’s air pollution. He feels that increased pollution from planes and vehicle traffic would worsen high levels of respiratory illnesses in neighbourhoods near the airport. He says this would lead to ‘considerable’ increases in air pollution and noise in Crawley, a decrease in the standard of living and a fall in townspeople’s health within 15 years of the runway and associated infrastructure being built. People living in Langley Green, Ifield and Crawley’s new neighbourhood, Forge Wood, would be worst affected. Over this time as a GP he had seen quite a substantial rise in the number of respiratory illnesses, particularly asthma, particularly in children. He said “the last thing you would want to do is make that worse” and that the airport’s effect on the increasing rate of lung-related conditions across the area played on his mind during his medical career. He said in Crawley almost 10% of his patients were from South Asian origin, a group that is known to have a higher than average incidence of asthma and greater than average need for emergency admission to hospital for asthma. But little thought seems to have been given to their welfare. He also questions the provision of extra medical facilities that would be needed if there was a new runway. Facilities are already stretched – and Gatwick will not pay for more.
GP fears airport bid will increase town pollution
8th April 2015
A retired GP believes a second runway at Gatwick Airport would lead to a ‘disastrous’ increase in Crawley’s air pollution.
Dr Paul Stillman, a former senior partner at Leacroft Medical Practice claimed increased pollution from planes and vehicle traffic would worsen high levels of respiratory illnesses in neighbourhoods near the airport.
A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said studies on the effect the second runway would have on roads showed the GP’s fears about increased road traffic were inaccurate.
The spokesman added it had not breached EU and UK annual air quality limits. The airport would maintain its ‘100 per cent’ record should the runway be built.
Dr Stillman, 68, of Pound Hill, who worked in Langley Green for nearly 40 years, believed Gatwick expansion would lead to ‘considerable’ increases in air pollution and noise in Crawley, a similar decrease in the standard of living and a fall in townspeople’s health within 15 years of the runway and associated infrastructure being built.
He said: “I think that’s disastrous because living in an area is not simply about the prosperity, it’s about the quality of life that you have.
“I cannot really see this is going to benefit the community and it certainly would have a poor effect on the people who live in that part of the world.”
He said people living in Langley Green, Ifield and Crawley’s new neighbourhood, Forge Wood, would be worst affected.
Dr Stillman said: “Throughout my professional time in general practice in that part of the town [Langley Green] certainly we saw a quite substantial rise in the number of respiratory illnesses – we saw particularly asthma, particularly in children.
“You’ve got a lot of people for whatever reason are suffering of something, of which some of it certainly is reversible – the last thing you want to do is make that worse.”
Dr Stillman said pollution was triggering asthma and other lung-related attacks across the neighbourhood.
He said the airport’s effect on the increasing rate of lung-related conditions across the area played on his mind during his medical career.
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: “Neither our modelling or that of the Airports Commission, or comments by West Sussex County Council suggest that this is an accurate picture of the impact of a second runway on local roads.
“Gatwick Airport has never breached EU and UK annual air quality limits and would maintain this 100 per cent air quality record with a second runway.
“We have also committed to a range of measures that would improve journey times for local road users and manage all traffic better if the airport expands.
“In addition, Gatwick would create a £10 million Local Highway Development Fund to meet any additional work required to improve local roads.”
“Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses in the UK. South Asian children are more likely to suffer from their asthma and be admitted to hospital.” UCL
The two letters are below:
The proposed expansion of Gatwick Airport
The decision whether to build a second runway and its associated additional passenger terminal at Gatwick Airport presents the most important decision affecting anybody living in or near Crawley in living memory. It is vital that any of us involved in their welfare make an informed choice and share this in any way we can, through local patient groups, public pressure groups and parliamentary representatives.
Recent surveys by the regional media suggest most residents are in favour of this expansion, although only a small proportion have followed the discussion or read the arguments for and against. And this is easy to understand. The huge publicity machine for Gatwick Airport promises more jobs and new businesses bringing wealth to the area and to those who live in it. The integrity of a company already under scrutiny for the UK taxes they pay may raise doubts, and in reality of course we enjoy one of the lowest rates of unemployment anywhere at just 1.2%. It has been estimated a second runway would create at least 22,000 new jobs by 2050 so these posts would have to be filled largely by commuters from south London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, and by massive new building programmes around Crawley. This in turn will compound our current rail and road problems and the 95 million people travelling through the extended airport each year must result in a profound impact on noise, air quality and consequent stress levels of all the residents, new and old.
In Langley Green, where I practiced, houses will be compulsorily demolished and many of the remainder left adjacent to perimeter fencing and a very large earth mound. This population already suffers from an unusually high incidence of respiratory conditions. In Crawley we have almost 10% of our patients from Asian origin, 50% higher than the national average. The incidence of asthma amongst them is well known, although little thought seems to have been given to their welfare. The need for emergency admission is three times greater for Asian asthmatics than for the white population. There has been much talk of the 7-8 billion pounds needed to improve the infrastructure in travel, housing, schools and even the old chestnut, a new hospital. Almost all of this – if it actually happens – will come from the private sector and taxation. On a more immediate level we have already seen the loss of a GP practice in West Green with no plans to replace it.
Promise of a new practice to support the housing development off Haslett Avenue never materialised, and a new surgery at Forge Wood has been described as ‘financially difficult’. I understand the Clinical Commissioning Group believe it is unlikely they will be able to support any new practice buildings, despite the current proposals for at least 4000 new houses east and west of the town, including Kilnwood Vale, Forgewood and Copthorne. What chance for a new hospital?
The loss of part of the Manor Royal estate will forcibly remove some of the businesses our current prosperity depends on. How many new ones will be attracted remains to be seen, although our current businesses are spread across a diverse range of companies, surely more healthy than having all our eggs in one basket when approaching an uncertain long term future for the air travel industry.
Crawley Borough Council, West Sussex and Kent County Councils have all withdrawn their support for this development and voted against it. The final decision rests now with central government, guided by a report from the independent Airports Commission. If they decide to enlarge Heathrow anybody who has the ear of their community needs to be able to reassure them this is in their best interests. If they agree with Gatwick Airport Ltd we must be prepared to express our concerns and objections in any way we can.
Thank you for reading this letter. More information can be found at the One’s Enough Crawley Facebook page www.facebook.com/onesenoughgatwick or the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign,www.gacc.org.uk. If you have any comments please email them to me via firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be forwarded.
Dr Paul Stillman
Letter to MP (and parliamentary candidate at the election)
Dear Henry Smith and Chris Oxlade
I am writing to express my opposition to the expansion of Gatwick Airport. I have worked as a general practitioner in Langley Green, adjacent to the existing airport, for over 30 years. A major clinical problem throughout that time has been the high levels of respiratory disorders, including asthma in children and young adults. Stress related illnesses, including high blood pressure with all its consequences, have also been apparent in this community more than elsewhere. I do not believe this is related to social deprivation or employment issues, simply because we don’t have them. It is however certainly in part the result of poor air quality from both aero fuels and road vehicles, and traffic congestion with the loss of open spaces for us to enjoy. Perhaps saddest of all is that Asians of all ages have an incidence of asthma 50% above the white population, in Langley Green and Ifield represent 10% of the resident population. They already live near the boundary of the airfield but will be much closer to these hazards should this proposed expansion take place. The recent Crawley Borough Council consultation on air quality highlights the existing high levels of pollution on Crawley Avenue, which will be disastrously increased and spread to all arterial roads across and around the town, should a second runway be approved.