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Southampton Airport expansion gets green light after 19-hour debate

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AFTER 19 hours of deliberations, plans to expand the runway at Southampton Airport were given the green light.

Twenty-two Eastleigh councillors voted early on Saturday morning in favour of the proposals to expand the runway by 164 metres, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Thirteen councillors voted against the plans and one abstained. The scheme had been backed by New Forest District Council as an economic boost for the region.

All councillors at Eastleigh Borough Council spent 19 hours debating the proposals.

Southampton airpoty (46067868)
Southampton airpoty (46067868)

Objectors called for the plans to be refused on the grounds of climate change, noise and pollution.

Supporters said the move would boost the local economy and create new jobs.

It was previously revealed that the number of people affected by noise would go from 11,450 in 2020 to 46,050 in 2033, if the expansion went ahead.

But officers said the mitigation measures proposed, including insulation and a cap on vehicles to restrict passengers to 3-million per annum, would result in a “moderate adverse impact”.

In the 19-hour debate councillors were also told that the expansion would create more than 1,000 jobs, boost the local economy and result in a £15m investment.

Cllr Margaret Atkinson, leader of the Conservative group, said: “The decision the council takes on this application is probably the most important it ever takes as it will shape the future of the borough and of its residents for generations to come.”

A number of councillors said they couldn’t support the plans and raised concerns over the impact of the runway expansion on climate change and noise.

Cllr Louise Parker-Jones said: “I am not reassured there are the right mitigation processes in place. I really fear for Eastleigh, I really fear why this has been pushed through so so quickly. There is no planet B.”

Southampton Airport bosses said they would have to face difficult decisions if the plans were rejected.

Steve Szalay, operations director at the airport, said: “It’s a very divisive issue. This is our plan to adapt, to make sure we become a viable business again. We cannot sustain loss of £8m a year. There’s no maths that suggest the airport will be okay.

"There’s nobody here denying a climate emergency. With a sound economy we can find a technological solution which would decarbonise the country. Back the airport, back the development of green technology. You tonight hold the keys to thousands of jobs. A vote for the runway extension secures our future, it secures current jobs, it creates more jobs.”

During the debate councillors were also told that the airport is a lifeline for residents in the Channel Islands.

Cllr Keith House, Liberal Democrat leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, asked councillors to approve the proposals, which were passed by nine votes.

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