We believe that the economic benefits of expansion have been over-estimated and do not outweigh the costs which include climate change, noise, air pollution and increased traffic congestion.
The airport claims of economic benefits are based on a 2017 report that assumes the runway extension would be built last year. Also that there will be 4 million passengers per year by 2027 and 5 million by 2037. Yet the traffic modelling is based on just 3 million passengers by 2036, on the basis that neither the terminal buildings nor our roads can handle more than 3 million. So either the economic benefits will be lower or the roads will be gridlocked with the extra cars, or both.
The economic report also shows that in the “business as usual” scenario without the runway extension, by 2037 there are predicted to be 3.3 million passengers per year anyway. This contradicts the airport’s implied threat that if it can’t extend the runway it may not be able to sustain its current operations.
Not all of whatever economic benefit does happen will be local to Solent LEP let alone Southampton. 73% of current jobs at the airport are held by local people. In addition to these direct jobs there are “indirect jobs” arising elsewhere in the economy from non-wage spend by the airport and on-site business. But only 32% of airport non-wage spend is in the Solent area. Previous promises of extra jobs have failed to materialise. The Airport’s 2006 Masterplan promised an extra 537 jobs by 2015 but fact there was a net loss of 54. No account has been taken of Brexit effects nor the proposed expansion of Heathrow, nor of economic harms such as reductions in price of homes under the flight path.
Already aircraft noise affects 9000 local people above 54dB. The bigger aircraft that the airport hopes to attract are noiser than the smaller ones, and therefore they predict that the numbers of people affected will rise significantly to over 25,000 by 2037. In addition the number of people exposed above 63dB (currently zero) will be 1550 by 2037 – when there will even be 50 households exposed above 66dB. The idea that noise insulation is adequate to deal with this is laughable. What happens if people want to open their windows or sit in their gardens?
The airport’s assessment of health impacts ignores the World Health Organisation recommendation to keep noise below 45dB due to adverse health effects, especially on children. It even suggests those who live under the flight path is will “become more tolerant of environmental noise in the context of the socio-economic benefits that the proposed development will bring.” How many of these 25,000 people will able to take up the promised new jobs? How many of them will even be among the 15% of fliers or 7% of the population who take most of the flights?
Southampton City Council was among the first to declare a climate emergency and this is the first opportunity for it to show that this means something. The airport offers no mitigation for the extra aircraft emissions except that the airport will make its own operations carbon neutral by 2037. This would save a maximum of 66,000 tonnes per year, compared with average aircraft emissions of 350,000 tonnes per year. And in the first 10 years the extra aircraft emissions will be closer to 500,000 tonnes per year, which is about the same as the CO2 emitted by homes and industry in the entire City of Southampton.
Aviation will not be able to become greener in the near future. Electric planes will only ever be able to replace the smaller aircraft, not the larger jets the runway extension aims to attract, and carbon offsetting projects simply can’t be scaled up to offset all our current flights, let alone more. No expansion should be allowed until it is proven that greener flying is possible.
The airport claims it is better to have a larger local airport because it will stop people driving to other airports. It seems extremely unlikely that all 1,2 or 3 million extra passengers will be people abandoning Heathrow and Gatwick (not least because Southampton is more expensive). What is more likely is that a lot of journeys will be taken that would not have been taken before. The Committee on Climate Change has said that we cannot achieve carbon neutrality without restraining aviation.
It might be worth recording cllrs, but do ask permission.