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Objectors urge government to call-in Southampton Airport expansion approval

THE government has been urged to call-in plans to expand the runway at Southampton Airport.

Campaign group AXO Southampton has written to communities secretary Robert Jenrick asking him to reconsider the planning application which was approved last week, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The proposals to extend the runway by 164 metres, which were backed by New Forest District Council, were given the go-ahead by Eastleigh Borough Council.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed it received “a number of requests to call in this planning application”.

Bosses at Southampton Airport said they are “resolutely committed” to the plans.

The proposals proved controversial with objectors raising concerns over the impact on noise and climate change, and supporters saying it would boost the local economy and create new jobs.

AXO member Lyn Brayshaw said: “There is a clear conflict between government policy in the Climate Change Act to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and expansion of the airport which will result in hundreds of thousand tons a year of additional greenhouse gas emissions.

"In addition, serious noise impacts will extend well beyond the boundaries of Eastleigh borough, with more residents in Southampton being seriously affected than in Eastleigh, and large numbers in Winchester as well. This caused both councils to object to the application.

"Other applications have been called in for similar reasons, and we believe the secretary of state should now do so in this case.”

Plans to redevelop Leeds Bradford Airport have been delayed to allow Mr Jenrick more time to consider it.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “If called in, the application would be considered at a public inquiry. If not called in, it would be returned to the council to decide. Because of the quasi-judicial nature of the planning process it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

It is not yet known when a final decision is set to be made.

Steve Szalay, operations director at Southampton Airport, said: “After a fair and thorough process, where four rounds of public consultation led to a 60% majority of local and regional support for the airport, coupled with a total of 33 hours of committee time which allowed residents and business communities the opportunity to have their voice heard at both the Eastleigh local area committee and the full council, we disagree with the request to call this in for Ministerial scrutiny.

"The vast majority of Eastleigh councillors supported the application following the recommendation of their planning team. This process involved extensive debate and questioning. There is no doubt the process has been fair, rigorous, robust and legally sound.

"We are now frustrated that our objectors are delaying the opportunity for the airport to deliver over 250 jobs as part of the construction phase alone. We are resolutely committed to these runway extension plans and the 2,500 jobs this protects and enables.”

According to government guidelines, the secretary of state will generally only consider making a call-in "if planning issues of more than local importance are involved”.

Such cases may include, for example, those which in the secretary of state’s opinion:

  • may conflict with national policies on important matters
  • may have significant long-term impact on economic growth and meeting housing needs across a wider area than a single local authority
  • could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality
  • give rise to substantial cross-boundary or national controversy
  • raise significant architectural and urban design issues
  • or may involve the interests of national security or of foreign governments.

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