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'This is far from over' – Southampton Airport bosses will have to convince full council over runway extension plans after committee rejection

Southampton Airport wants to extend its runway by 164 metres
Southampton Airport wants to extend its runway by 164 metres

AFTER two days and almost 17 hours of debate, civic chiefs decided to put the brakes on plans to expand the runway at Southampton Airport.

The final decision will have to be taken by all councillors in Eastleigh during a full council meeting set to be held on 8th April, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The Eastleigh local area committee refused the plans, which were backed by New Forest District Council. Airport bosses said “this is far from over”.

Members heard how the expansion of the runway, which has flightpaths over parts of the New Forest, would create more than 1,000 jobs, boost the local economy and result in a £15m investment.

But concerns were raised over the impact it would have on noise and climate change, partly by enabling bigger planes to operate.

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

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

But the proposals were defeated by five votes to three.

According to the report, the airport breaks even at 1.2-million passengers per year, and without the expansion it is estimated it would have just over 1-million passengers per year.

If the plans are approved the number of passengers is expected to rise to 3-million per year.

Cllr Alex Bourne, who voted in favour, said: “Whilst the report doesn’t say the airport is going to close, it is easy to read between the lines. It is not just a decision between health and wealth.

“We have an opportunity to save local jobs and create new ones. It is a massive conflict between the health of many and the wealth of many by having a job. ”

Cllr Tina Campbell said 34,000 people who are currently not affected by aircraft noise would be if the expansion goes ahead.

She added: “That is a hell of a lot of people affected by noise, and that really concerns me. Health issues cost money. That will cost the NHS to help people who are experiencing mental illnesses or respiratory problems.

“It is really important to save people’s livelihoods and at the same time it is really important to recognise we are in a climate emergency – we need to demonstrate real leadership here.”

After the vote, committee chair Cllr Campbell said: “The recommendation to permit has not been passed. In accordance with our constitution this matter will now be referred to full council for determination. This is as this is considered a matter of borough-wide significance.”

Steve Szalay, operations director at Southampton Airport commented: “The committee did not support the recommendations of the planning officer and in doing so it has gone against the majority of Eastleigh residents who expressed their support during the consultation as well as the local business community.

“We now welcome the opportunity to present our plans to the full council on 8th April. We hope they will listen to the will of the people, the local business community and their own planning team and make the right decision for the future of the airport and seize the opportunity to create thousands of much-needed jobs.”

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