Minister’s airport decision ‘baffling’ says think-tank

Eastleigh Borough council gives Airport expansion the go-ahead 24 hours after Ministry tells us "It's still under consideration"

Eastleigh Borough Council have approved the expansion of the airport runway, less than 24hrs after the MHCLG told Eastleigh News that “the requests to call in the decision are being considered.” Pic: Google Earth.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF), a charitable think-tank, has described the decision by Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), to allow Southampton Airport’s expansion plans as ‘baffling’. The Minister’s decision comes 24 hours after his department told Eastleigh News ‘it’s still under consideration’.

On 10 April Eastleigh Borough Council voted to permit a 164 metre extension of the Airport Runway. Groups opposed to airport expansion contacted the MHCLG asking the Minister to call in the planing application. Usually the Ministry would issue a ‘holding notice’ to the planning authority while objections were considered but the Council volunteered not to give the airport the go-ahead until the end of May.

Yesterday (June 3) Eastleigh Borough Council issued planning permission to Southampton Airport as they had not heard a response from the MHCLG about their decision. In a statement the Council said they had informed the MHCLG on May 14, that if they had not heard a response from them by the end of Month, they would continue with their intention to grant permission for the airport’s expansion.

Dr Alex Chapman, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation criticised the ‘baffling’ decision which he said would accelerate climate damage at the very time the UK was working towards emission reduction targets:

“The decision from the Secretary of State not to call in the airport’s expansion plans for further scrutiny is baffling. Only two weeks after the council gave its approval the UK government not only announced a new national emissions reduction target of -78% by 2035, but moved for the first time to include aviation emissions in its climate targets. Our research at the New Economics Foundation shows that this expansion could increase emissions in our new 2035 target year by up to 650,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases. The government’s decision not even to look at these issues represents a failure of leadership in the very year the UK is supposed to be stepping up on the world stage as host of the next United Nations Climate Conference. Our climate pledges and targets, both local and national, are beginning to look a lot like hot air.”

“The government, the Council, and the airport will now share responsibility for the colossal climate cost of this expansion, which we estimate comes in at up to £2.6 billion between 2025 and 2050.”

Eastleigh News had contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government less than 24 hours before Eastleigh Borough Council granted permission to the airport on the 3 June. The response we were given then from an MHCLG spokesperson said:

“The requests to call in the decision are being considered and a decision will be made in due course.”

However, just over 24 hours later, following Eastleigh Borough Council’s announcement that they’d granted permission to the airport, we contacted the MHCLG again – and were told that the Secretary of State no longer has the option of calling it in, since the Council have now issued the decision.

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Marlon Ayling-Allen

I'm a Graduate Reporter for Eastleigh News and a BJTC trained Journalist from the University of Winchester with First Class Honours. I have a real passion for local news and sports, and am currently studying for a Masters degree in Criminology!