Myths busted

How do we know you aren’t making up all these stats about numbers of flights and people affected?
Don’t take our word for it! All the facts and figures we are quoting about potentially 48 A320 jets per day and the 46,000 people to be affected by noise above 51dB are taken directly from the documents provided by the airport on the planning site.

The airport is not “expanding”
Just because the runway extension stays within the airport’s existing borders doesn’t mean this is not an expansion. It does propose to expand its operations through increasing passenger numbers by 50% (on 2019) levels. As a result the number of people affected by noise will increase by 135%.

How come it will be noiser? Modern planes are much quieter
Bigger planes are noisier than smaller ones. (Unless you are inside them, but that’s not relevant to people on the ground underneath!). The whole point of extending the runway is to encourage the bigger planes to use it. The noisy A320s that pre-covid were experienced at 2 per week will become 48 per day!

What’s the fuss? 60dB is only about as loud as a washing machine
Noise under the flight path is not measured in absolute terms, like the decibels used to describe common sounds like traffic or washing machines. Instead it is averaged over time to take account of its intermittent nature. Individual planes going over can be as loud as 80dB in the centre of the flight path. The 60dB LAEQ (averaged over a 16 hour day) used to define the area where people will be offered insulation reflects the loudness and frequency of aircraft and the annoyance they cause. It doesn’t make sense to compare it with the constant but quieter sound of (say) a washing machine.

It is “greener” if we don’t have to drive to other airports
Flight emissions are so much greater than road emissions that the savings will be trivial. The airport’s ‘leakage analysis’ shows that 42% of local people wouldn’t fly at all if they couldn’t go from Southampton, and the flight emissions from these people alone are many, many times greater than those of the people who do choose to drive to another airport. As for becoming carbon neutral – most other airports are making the same promise, even though a “carbon neutral airport” is about as meaningful as fat-free lard! See our post for more on this myth.

Noise insulation means it will all be OK
There is no evidence that insulating homes makes any difference to the harms to mental and physical health that are known to result from aircraft noise. There is no evidence it helps mitigate the harms to children’s education either. Only 6% of affected people will be offered insulation, and some people near to the airport who will have to suffer up to 48 jets a day taking off at 85dB won’t get insulation either! It does absolutely nothing for outdoor spaces. See our post for more information about the impact of noise on people living, working and learning under the flight path.

The community fund will help
How? There are no details, and how can “sound scaping” help against planes flying overhead? What use is a pretty community garden if it’s too noisy to enjoy? Besides, the suggested £2 per flight over a certain limit will raise a trivial amount of money.

Noise will be capped
The noise cap only restricts levels to the equivalent of 3 million passengers. That is the very level of noise that has been assessed and found “unacceptable”. We don’t know how the noise levels will be measured – if it’s through “modelling” how can we trust it’s accurate? Besides, average noise levels ignore the peaks as each airplane goes by – and with the switch to more A320 jets these peaks are going to be a lot louder. The number of A320s will increase from 2 a week to up to 50 a DAY! Also the noise cap will vanish as soon as the airspace is modernised.

The airport will go bust without the extension
This is scaremongering! Officers at the ELAC meeting are on record at stating that the airport had specifically said that it has no plans to close even if the extension is not approved, which is why no analysis has been done of the economic benefits of alternative uses of the land. The loss of Flybe was a blow, but it was the inevitable result of a business decision to allow the airport to become so dependent on a single airline. All airports lost passengers in 2020 – the reason was Covid-19, not Flybe!

There aren’t any suitable planes
There are! The A220 was mentioned several times at the ELAC meeting. London City Airport has an even shorter runway but is planning to welcome small planes like the A220 and Embraer E2 which are more modern, quieter and have a longer range. If Southampton can’t attract these perhaps it needs better management rather than a longer runway?

We could lose 2000 potential jobs
Before the pandemic there were only 950 jobs at the airport. The planning application promises 1410 by 2036 from 3 million passengers. But the original application had only 1050 from 3.3 million passengers (without the extension, meaning a lot more actual flights) and we have no idea where the extra 160 come from. Besides, the airport’s promises of jobs have been wrong before. The 2006 masterplan predicted an extra 547 jobs by 2015 – in fact there was a loss of 54. The number of jobs in the wider economy is based on reports that assess the impact of bigger airports – see “It’s good for the economy”.

It’s good for the economy
It isn’t. It’s aimed at profit for shareholders and investors. The development aims to attract a low cost carrier for more holiday travel. The economic reports used in the planning application are based on the impact of bigger airports which carry a lot of freight – this is where the benefit to the economy lies. Outbound tourism – and most Southampton passengers are outbound – takes money out of the economy to be spent abroad. The economic assessment completely ignores financial harms such as outbound tourism, house price reductions under the flight path, and the costs of mitigating all the increased deprivation and damage to health and the environment that will occur. Here’s our letter about the impact of the proposed development on the economy and jobs.

It will be good for business
Not all businesses agree, especially those under the flight path. Business travel is likely to fall with the increase in online communications. Business travellers from most countries beyond Europe will still not be able to fly direct. The Freeport is not mentioned in the planning application and does not depend on a bigger airport. And if we let climate change rip this will damage the economy far more than coronavirus has.

We should make it easier for people to enjoy a holiday in the sun
No-one begrudges hard-working people a holiday. But 15% of UK passengers take 70% of flights – and since in any given year less than half of us fly at all that’s 6% of the population. Air travel does not pay a fair share of its costs. It pays no tax on fuel and no VAT on tickets. Air Passenger Duty is the only tax it does pay, and that doesn’t reflect the environmental and social costs of different journeys.

People will just fly from somewhere else
The airport’s ‘leakage analysis’ says only 58% of local people will still fly if they have to go elsewhere. Expanding the airport is about driving up demand for flying. The Committee on Climate Change has said aviation must be restrained if we are to hit our carbon reduction targets. We can’t do this if, in the absence of government leadership on the issue, local authorities all over the country continue to permit airports to expand.

People who choose to live under the flight path shouldn’t complain about noise
Many people will have first moved there years ago when the airport was smaller. Noise has been steadily rising, and with the massive increase following the extension it would become much harder for them to move. Another 26,000 people will find themselves in the 51dB noise band – these people won’t have considered themselves under the flight path at all! The communities under the flight path have higher levels of deprivation, unemployment and mental health issues than Eastleigh Borough as a whole. As so often, the brunt of the ill effects will be borne by those least likely to benefit.


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