Green Party oppose planned expansion to Southampton Airport

16 November 2019

Southampton International Airport Expansion

The airport plans to extend its runway in order to accommodate more destinations for larger aircraft and to more than double passenger numbers by 2037. This will increase traffic, noise and air pollution affecting local people and make it much harder to avoid catastrophic climate change. Southampton and District Green Party opposes expansion for the following reasons:


NOISE: The World Health Organisation recommends keeping aircraft noise below 45dB, as levels above this have adverse effects on health, especially for children. Yet the airport's own noise management plan shows that already 5600 local people suffer noise twice this loud (55dB), and that after expansion even more will be affected at this level. The airport proposes to offer noise insulation to residents within the 63dB contour – a level that is 3.5 times louder than the WHO guidance. But noise insulation will only work if residents don’t want to open their windows or sit in their gardens, effectively trapping people in their homes.


TRAFFIC & AIR POLLUTION: The airport predicts a more than doubling of passenger numbers by 2037. Given that currently 71% of people arrive by car, this is a huge increase in traffic. The airport says it wants a decrease in the proportion of people arriving by car (to 61%) – although it has no control over this, and still suggests the number of car parking spaces could double to accommodate the extra journeys, with 600 more in the first phase. It is questionable whether peak time trains, which already run at full capacity, can accommodate the proposed increase, meaning that most of the increase will be on our already badly congested roads. The airport says its modelling shows that passenger numbers can grow to 3 million “without significantly impacting the road network” – yet it plans for 4 million passengers by 2027 and 5 million by 2035. Road traffic is the single biggest cause of air pollution, which is already bad in Southampton. Aviation contributes an additional amount


SUSTAINABILITY: The airport is a signatory to Southampton’s Green City Charter and says it aims to be "carbon neutral by 2030” - but this is limited to their own activities and crucially does NOT include emissions from the airlines using it. Moreover their carbon reduction plans state that they intend to reduce carbon emissions by only 10% (to 60,000 tonnes) – ie not to zero – by 2037. This reduction is dwarfed by the huge 350,000t estimated increase in carbon emissions from airlines using it – ie an increase nearly 60 times the amount the airport plans to save. For comparison, in 2017 according to the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy, homes and industry in the entire city of Southampton (excluding the port) emitted 534,000t. If the expansion goes ahead it would mean additional carbon emissions equivalent to a city two thirds the size of Southampton on our doorstep! Aviation is expected by 2050 to be the largest single emitting sector in the UK, and the Committee on Climate Change says if we wish to reach carbon neutrality we must restrain airport growth. Airline industry proposals for carbon offsetting are completely inadequate. Electric planes will never be able to replace the larger jets that the expansion is aimed at attracting. The airport’s plan also requires the felling of trees in Marlhill Copse. They claim this is based on “safety” despite the fact that these trees have been at the same height for many years without problems. In reality the trees need to go in order to attract more of the larger aircraft to the airport.


ECONOMY & SOCIAL JUSTICE: The airport says 500 new jobs will be created onsite. However its 2006 master plan claimed that by 2015 it would employ 1541 - in fact there were only 950. If the new forecast is a similar overestimate, the actual number of new jobs will be much smaller. Even taking the current predictions at face value, the number of jobs would increase by only 26% despite a doubling of passenger numbers. Given the obvious costs to local people, the benefits to Southampton residents seem disproportionately low. In the UK 70% of flights are taken by 15% of fliers (and since in any given year 57% of the population don't fly at all this means 70% of flights are taken by just 7% of the population). It is unlikely many of these frequent fliers live under flight paths. Those who will suffer the most from airport expansion are least likely to be among those who will benefit. The wider benefits on the economy of increased passenger numbers are questionable, given that the airport’s figures show that in 2018 only 30% of flights are for business and that most (78%) begin as outbound flights by local people rather than by people from outside the area travelling in.


PASSENGER NUMBERS: The airport says it is responding to predicted demand. However, its figures show that numbers peaked in 2007 before falling during the recession, only rising again after 2012. Numbers fell again earlier this year and it is by no means clear that there is much current demand for additional flights. Instead it is more likely that the airport hopes to induce demand by creating more capacity – in the same way that building roads attracts more traffic (and Southampton intends to attract more cyclists by building cycle infrastructure). Moreover, with “flight-shaming” becoming more common and even airlines like Flybe planning to withdraw from routes to cities also served by trains, numbers could fall even more.


PUBLIC OPINION: The airport says its public consultation shows “a majority support expansion”. Yet only 396 people responded to this consultation – from an area which extends as far as Portsmouth, Andover, Salisbury and Poole. Most of the negative responses were concentrated within our city, i.e. the area most adversely affected by airport activities. In comparison, a petition calling on Southampton city Council to oppose the planning application gathered nearly 2000 signatories.


If you wish to oppose Southampton airport’s expansion please see

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