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Decision on Southampton Airport runway extension still up in the air

Last night's meeting on the plans went on for 14 hours before it was adjourned
Last night's meeting on the plans went on for 14 hours before it was adjourned

CAMPAIGNERS called for “outrageous” plans to extend the runway at Southampton Airport to be refused at a meeting held to decide on the scheme.

After 14 hours of debate last night, discussions over plans to expand by 164m the runway at Southampton Airport, which has flight paths over the New Forest, will resume at 6pm today (Friday), writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Dozens of people including residents, councillors, businesses and representatives of Southampton Airport shared their views on the scheme during the virtual meeting of the Eastleigh Local Area Committee, which started at 10am and finished at midnight.

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

But airport bosses and businesses stressed the positive impact the move would have on jobs and the local economy.

The main concern raised during the debate was the impact the runway expansion would have on climate change and noise.

It comes as the committee was told that the number of people affected by noise would rise from 11,450 in 2020 to 46,050 by 2033, if the expansion goes ahead.

But officers said that mitigation measures proposed would result in a “moderate adverse impact”.

Among those measures is a cap on vehicles to restrict passengers to three million per year; a noise insulation policy and a community fund – although details of the projects which would be provided through this fund are yet to be revealed.

But campaigner Lyn Brayshaw described the measures as “trivial”.

Cllr John Savage said: “It is outrageous – our communities are being damaged by decisions you are making and it is going to affect the health of our people and it will last for generations.”

Many suggested the airport cap passenger numbers at two million per year.

But officers said these concerns will need to be considered in the planning balance.

Eastleigh MP Paul Holmes said: “The planning conditions ensure a fair deal for the local community and address concerns such as noise and traffic. I believe the case for granting this approval is overwhelming.”

Cllr Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, said: “This application gives the council and community, for the first time, the ability to limit total movements, and to achieve greater controls than it has had in the past. This is a very significant gain.”

The plans were backed by the local business community including Go!Southampton and Solent LEP.

Ross McNally, chief executive at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We ask the panel to back the airport, local businesses, communities and the great potential of this economy. The whole Solent business community depends on a well connected region.”

During the meeting, Andy Grandfield, head of housing and development at Eastleigh Borough Council, said the airport breaks even at 1.2m passengers per year, and without the expansion it is estimated that it would have just over one million passengers per year. However, if the plans are approved the number of passengers is expected to rise to three million per year.

Mr Grandfield said without the expansion the airport would have to look at alternative arrangements for funding to remain as a viable business. “That isn’t the same as saying if the application is not approved the airport would close,” he added. “We need to make that very clear.”

Southampton Airport operations director Steve Szalay, said: “We lost £7m last year, we are losing £7m this year and if that loss continues in 2022/23 and at a smaller scale because this application is refused then there’s a really horrible conversation about what we do about that.”

He told the panel the runway expansion would result in £15m worth of investment and more than 1,000 jobs.

Airport bosses also said they were committed to continuing to work with the local community and put mitigation measures in place including a noise and carbon strategy.

Adjourning the meeting, Cllr Tina Campbell, chair of the Eastleigh Local Area Committee, said: “This is a decision that needs proper and full consideration.”

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