A FINAL decision on plans to expand the runway at Southampton Airport will be made tomorrow.

As reported, the plans have proved controversial and four public consultations were held since the proposals were first unveiled in 2019.

Managers at Southampton Airport said the future of the airport will be hanging in the balance if the plans are refused.

But campaigners are calling for the proposals to be rejected on the grounds of noise and climate change.

We look at the key aspects of the plans ahead of decision day. 

What are the plans for? 

  • The  construction of a 164metre runway extension at the northern end of the existing runway;
  • 600 extra parking spaces at the long-stay car park off Mitchell Way, bringing the total to 3,465;
  • The erection of a blast screen to the north of the proposed runway extension;

Why is noise a concern? 

The impact the runway expansion would have on noise has been one of the main concerns raised by residents and some local authorities.

According to the proposals, the number of people affected by noise would go from 11,450 in 2020 to 46,050 in 2033 - this would be an increase from 4,750 households to 18,050.

Planning officers said the noise impacts arising from the proposed development are "a significant concern".

But they also said mitigation measures would make a "positive difference".

In their report planning bosses in Eastleigh said: "On balance, the development would reduce the impact of noise to an acceptable level, but there would still be an adverse impact of a moderate scale. This will have to be considered in the planning balance."

What mitigation measures are being proposed?

  • Increase the amount of financial contribution towards noise insulation from £3,000 to £5,000;
  • The cap on vehicles to restrict passengers to 3m per annum;
  • Noise specific mitigation to be secured through a Noise Insulation Policy;
  • A maximum noise contour at 51dB to ensure that the noise envelope is not greater than 16.1km2;
  • A Community Fund to enable some offsetting of the impact on amenity caused as a result of the increased noise impact on open space.

What impact will the development have on air quality? 

According to the report,  the dominant source of emissions to air is  road transport and the M27 and M3 motorways in particular.

Officers said "airport-related emissions are shown to have little
impact on ambient air quality".

They added: "With the mitigation to be secured  the proposed development is not anticipated to result in significant effects on human health as a result of emissions of nitrogen oxides or particulate matter (PM 10, PM 2.5), or loss of amenity due to odours. The proposed development is not considered to result in an adverse impact on air quality, amenity, health."

How about the impact on climate change?

Officers said that securing mitigation, including a Carbon Strategy, will allow "some mitigation of impact".

But they added: "But the proposal will nonetheless give rise to considerable CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. The impacts of the
operation of the development on global warming (both CO2 and nonCO2 effects) are undoubtedly significant in the context of the UK’s 2050 target."

How many jobs will be created? 

  •  475 direct jobs by 2027, if the plans are rejected;
  • 1,083 jobs by 2027, if the plans are approved;
  • 1,410 by 2037, an increase of 927 jobs based on the same time period without the runway - according to the report.

Fears over future of Southampton Airport

What would the impact on the local economy be? 

  • The development would boost direct employment to circa 1,400 jobs and indirect employment to 2,367 by 2037;
  • An increase in passenger numbers  would attract "a range of operators providing routes to many European destinations used by the business and tourism sectors";
  • The  effect  of the runway extension is estimated to result into circa 2.8% growth in the Solent LEP’s GDP by 2027.

Officers added: "The recent announcement of the successful Solent Freeport bid, which includes the airport site and land to the north further highlights the importance of this part of the Borough to its economy."

Will Marlhill Copse be affected by the development? 

Southampton Airport has confirmed that no works to trees at Marlhill Copse are proposed to facilitate the use of the extended runway.

According to official documents, a technical report  does not rule out works within Marlhill Copse but it does conclude that "overall there would not be a significant impact on Marlhill Copse".

Planning officers said to be satisfied that "there will be no loss or deterioration of ancient woodland as a result of the proposals".

What did the collapse of Flybe mean for Southampton Airport? 

  • In March 2020 Flybe went into administration.
  • More than 90% of the flights ceased over-night from Southampton;
  • Airport bosses said the frequency of flights has reduced and the range of destinations has "significantly diminished".
  • Employment went from 950 jobs on site to 470.