CAMPAIGNERS fighting against the expansion of Bournemouth airport have joined forces with other protesters to form a regional pressure group.

AirportWatch South West links activists opposing the planned growth of airports at Bournemouth, Newquay, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Newquay and Staverton.

Representatives of the new coalition were due to meet MPs and MEPs at the House of Commons this afternoon, and give presentations on the economic and environmental impact of airport expansion.

Soo Chapman, one of the Bournemouth campaigners, warned: "Massive expansion plans for all the airports in the south west mean a severe downturn in quality of life for local communities as noise disturbance and traffic congestion increase.

"Aviation is also the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions, which cause at least twice the environmental damage than if they were released on the ground. Expansion of airports across the region makes no sense at a time when the UK has failed to achieve government targets for cutting emissions."

Last week, national hotel chain Travelodge gave evidence to a Commons select committee claiming that tax breaks to short haul airlines were "slowly bringing the curtain down" on regional tourism, losing the UK £19 billion a year.

"The driver for airport growth is the increase in budget flights, yet it is cheap flights that are squeezing tourism in the south west," said retired teacher Mrs Chapman, prospective Green Party candidate for Christchurch.

She added: "We know CO2 emissions are climbing. We know aircraft emissions are not being counted. People are not being told exactly what impact they are having.

"Aviation is a problem second only to the devastation of the rainforests. This is about survival. We are facing a bleak future unless we get proper leadership."

AirportWatch is a national umbrella organisation, bringing together groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the National Trust, Women's Institute, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, RSPB and the Woodland Trust.