GATWICK Airport expansion plans would “make a mockery” of efforts to fight climate change, a campaign group claims.

The proposal to widen an existing standby runway and bring it into regular use would “wipe out” the efforts of Sussex communities to combat climate change, say members of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex.

In a statement, the organisation highlighted the fact the majority of councils in the county, including Brighton and Hove City Council, have declared a state of climate emergency.

This involves pledging to cut carbon emissions.

But the group says these efforts would be futile if Gatwick Airport were to run additional flights.

Dr Roger Smith of CPRE Sussex said: “Given the reality now generally accepted that climate change is an existential threat, Gatwick Airport’s proposal to bring its standby runway ‘into full-time routine use’ would seem to be entirely inappropriate and untenable.

“If these proposals are permitted there would be a significant increase in the movement of aircraft flying in and out of Gatwick, and in the number of passengers travelling to and from the airport.

“The consequent increase in harmful emissions would wipe out all the good work being done by local councils trying to cut carbon emissions and make a mockery of their efforts.”

CPRE Sussex members also criticised the way the airport had approached obtaining permission for its new plans.

It said bosses had “pursued an expansion plan via the back door after losing out when the Government decided to back Heathrow for expansion in 2016”.

The charity’s director, Kia Trainor, said: “Any carbon savings made by new aircraft technology is lost when you constantly increase the number of planes you fly.

“Airport expansion is in direct conflict with the growing public concern for the environment.

“We must all act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – climate change affects all our lives.”

Gatwick’s expansion plans were announced last month and could mean 70 planes leave the airport every hour.

A Gatwick spokesman said: “Gatwick recognises the importance of faster global and local action from all sectors to tackle climate change and will ensure any future growth is delivered in a sustainable way and in line with Government policy.

“We will carry out a number of detailed studies to assess the impacts and benefits of our standby runway plan on our local region and will be consulting on the plans next year.”