Gatwick buys council’s silence over air pollution with £75,000

A matter of weeks after grandstanding in the Town Hall chamber over a vacuous declaration of a climate emergency in Croydon, Tony Newman has linked one of the council’s youth centres to a sponsorship deal with… Gatwick Airport.

There’s a climate emergency in Croydon, while the council is accepting sponsorships from Gatwick Airport

Newman’s latest rhetorical buzz phrase has been that he should be judged by his “deeds not words”. Which suggests that his recent discovery of a climate emergency for a few cheap headlines is just so much, well… hot air, as Newman has now signed up Croydon Council to what looks like a cheap bribe, a sponsorship deal with the airport operators worth a piddling £75,000, just as they are pushing through their back-door second runway scheme.

That Newman is a thundering hypocrite ought not come as much of a surprise to Inside Croydon’s loyal reader. It is also increasingly obvious to many that the bloke’s a nine-bob buffoon, too.

Newman’s grasp of environmental science is, at best, tenuous. More than once, when challenged about his council’s close support for Gatwick’s bid to build a second runway, Newman has brushed aside the many and serious environmental concerns by claiming that all the pollution issues will be resolved by the use of solar-powered aircraft. That Newman actually repeated this weapons-grade bullshit in the council chamber in July suggests that he may actually believe it.

Newman, meanwhile, also continues to champion the building of a vast retail mall in the town centre which has, under currently approved plans, space for 3,000 cars to park – encouraging many thousands of polluting car journeys on a daily basis into Croydon, where air quality is routinely in breach of limits for particulate and NO pollution.

And Newman presides over a council which, having got elected on a platform that appeared to oppose a waste incinerator, has done nothing to end a contract which will pay £10million per year to burn the borough’s rubbish at Viridor’s Beddington Lane incinerator.

Sarah Jones: Croydon MP and former PR for Gatwick

There has been no formal announcement yet of the Gatwick sponsorship deal from the council.

But it seems that for a relatively modest sum (£75,000 wouldn’t buy Newman the loyalty of a couple of pliant back-bench councillors), Newman has managed to tie Croydon into a pact with the airport operator for the next three years at least.

Part of Newman’s problem locally is Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones. Jones used to work on Gatwick’s public relations. It seems that Jones’s support for Gatwick remains unshakeable, despite the evidence of the environmental pollution the airport, and a second runway, can cause for her constituents.

Gatwick is paying £25,000 a year for three years to be the “founder patron” of the Legacy Youth Zone, the £6.5million youth centre in Selhurst which officially opened at the weekend.

“Gatwick’s community programme includes a strong focus on inspiring and investing in young people, with projects ongoing across the counties which surround the airport,” the airport’s PR machine gushed this week.

The Legacy Youth Zone, opened at the weekend, now sponsored by a major polluter

Gatwick, which you might have noticed is two counties away, in Sussex, claims a “local” connection to Selhurst with this piece of public relations sleight of hand: “Croydon is a short train journey away from the airport, with many Gatwick employees living in and around the area.”

And the official announcement of the sponsorship quoted Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport’s CEO, as saying that, “We have been inspired by the Legacy Youth Zone’s aims to support young people to live healthier, happier lives [our italics] which fits perfectly with Gatwick’s determination to inspire and invest in the next generation.” Someone buy that man an air quality monitor…

They also managed to rope-in Jones for an obligatory supportive quote. “It’s encouraging to see large businesses like Gatwick making such a positive contribution to their local communities. Legacy is set to become a central part of Croydon’s community and Gatwick’s support will help ensure its ongoing success.” This was provided without the usually necessary health warning of any declaration of interest from Jones about her past ties with the airport.

One environmental campaigner contacted by Inside Croydon said, “Stating that you want to reduce pollution while taking money from a major polluter are clearly incompatible positions.

“And yes, that Croydon Council has done this is completely hypocritical.”

Tony Newman: all hot air, as usual

Newman, meanwhile, continues to push out the rhetoric while not really altering his, or the local authority’s, behaviour on pollution.

Last week, he tweeted to some of the Extinction Rebellion crew who are lobbying for urgent action to deal with the climate emergency, to say that he’s looking forward to meeting them and that he will be “taking a paper to our September Cabinet, confirming a decision to set up a Citizens Assembly for Croydon”.

So there you have it. Tony Newman’s decisive action to tackle the climate emergency: yet more hot air.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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