A HOST of businesses and a government minister have backed growth at Southampton Airport ahead of a crucial decision on extending its runway.

The move came as Southampton City Council’s Labour councillors said they would oppose the runway planning application, which will be decided by councillors in Eastleigh.

A list of Hampshire businesses signalled their support yesterday for growth at the export: Exxon Mobil Fawley, port operator ABP, cruise line Carnival UK, Ordnance Survey, the Ageas Bowl, Meachers Global, DP World Southampton, Solent Stevedores, Savills and Barker-Mill Estates.

The backing came as aviation minister Paul Maynard visited the airport and said Southampton could be at the “cutting edge” of environmentally sustainable aviation growth.

He was visiting as part of the government’s Regional Air Connectivity Review, which is examining the future of regional airports in the wake of the aid given to struggling airline Flybe. He was joined by Eastleigh MP Paul Holmes and Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North.

Mr Maynard told the Daily Echo: “We strongly believe, as a government, in levelling up the regions, making sure that everyone can access economic growth wherever it is possible and I know how important the airport is to the wider region, here in Hampshire and beyond in economic development, so I want to see airports like this prosper in a sustainable way.”

He said it was possible to address environmental concerns while helping airports grow. “We’re investing millions in sustainable fuels, in researching hybrid and electric aircraft. We’ve seen the first all-electric domestic flight in the Scottish islands, so I believe that domestic aviation will be the first sector to decarbonise and if we abolish and remove domestic aviation, we’ll make it that much harder to take the next step to decarbonising longer flights into Europe and beyond,” he said.

“Southampton Airport has a target of being carbon-neutral by 2030. That’s actually one of the earliest dates I’ve seen among regional airports so Southampton’s at the cutting edge of the green agenda for airports. I think they should be justly praised for that.”

Southampton City Council’s planning and rights of way committee will today scrutinise the application to extend the runway. Its views will be passed to Eastleigh Borough Council, which will make the decision.

City council leader Christopher Hammond said that “at this time and with the application in its current form we would urge the committee to resolve to write to Eastleigh Borough Council asking it to reject the application”.

Neil Garwood, managing director of Southampton Airport, said after yesterday’s visit that the Flybe crisis showed the need for the airport to be “resilient”.

“If we take short-sighted views and we don’t focus on growth and development, then the future for our region, for our airport and future connectivity is extremely challenging,” he said.

“So we need to see the support for growth of aviation and growth of the airport and that comes from the runway extension. An alternate future where the runway’s not extended, would see serious risk of not achieving the growth and the prosperity that we want this region to deliver.”