Southampton Airport forensic review: how did we get here?

A judicial review of the decision to allow a runway extension at Southampton Airport is due to begin on Wednesday.

Tomorrow campaigners will argue that Eastleigh City Council’s decision to approve the extension was ‘unlawful’ and that at the time residents were awaiting a separate decision on whether or not to hold a public inquiry.

Council leader Keith House meanwhile said the authority had “full confidence” in the failed review.

Ahead of the start of proceedings in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, we look back at the main developments of the past 12 months to explain how and why we got here.

Read more – Main article continues below:

A controversial subject

The expansion of Southampton Airport has been a controversial topic for years.

Those opposed have cited concerns about traffic, noise and air pollution as well as rising carbon emissions that would undo recent progress in tackling climate change.

However, airport bosses say the expansion will allow them to create around 2,500 jobs and boost the local economy.

It will also help secure the future of the airport in the future, they claim.

Southampton Airport

Request Approved

After years of feedback and value on the proposals, the Eastleigh local committee turned down the plans in March last year due to environmental concerns.

However, as the decision was considered a matter of importance throughout the borough, it was deferred to a meeting of the full council.

This took place on 10 April and saw Eastleigh Borough Council grant planning permission to extend the runway by 164m (538ft), after the application was recommended for approval.

During the 7 p.m. meeting, held online due to Covid restrictions in place at the time, 22 councilors voted in favor, 13 voted against and one abstained.

A public inquiry?

Despite the approval, those who thought construction could now begin were disappointed.

The government had asked the council to delay publication of the notice of decision to allow the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to assess the case and decide whether or not to appeal the application for public survey.

The government department previously said it had received multiple requests for the secretary of state to consider calling the bid.

However, after no response from the government, a notice of decision was issued by council in June.

This, according to the council, came after the local authority informed the government of its intention to deliver the decision by the end of May.

Daily Echo: Activists against Southampton Airport expansionCampaigners against Southampton Airport expansion

Calls for review

Shortly after the decision was approved, campaigners filed an application with the High Court seeking judicial review.

In August 2021, Airport Expansion Opposition (AXO) in Southampton confirmed that over £60,000 had been raised to cover legal costs.

John Lauwerys, of campaign group GOESA (Members of Group Opposed to the Expansion of Southampton Airport Ltd), said the board’s decision was flawed “both in the way it was made and the reasons for doing so. “.

The group argues that:

  • The council breached residents’ expectations that it would not grant permission until the Communities Secretary ruled on their request for a public inquiry.
  • The 2017 town and country planning regulations were breached by the failure to assess the effects of potential greenhouse gas emissions following an extension.
  • The council was swayed by a campaign claiming the airport should close if permission was not granted.

Airport operations manager Steve Szalay said he was “extremely disappointed” with the call for legal action.

A loss and a victory

A few months later, requests by Bournemouth Airport and GOESA to appeal against the plans were rejected, giving claimants seven days to appeal the decision.

But a GOESA spokesperson confirmed the fight would continue.

Speaking to the Echo in October, the spokesperson said: “GOESA has the opportunity to renew the application for judicial review at an oral hearing, and it intends to do so.”

By December, the High Court’s refusal had been overturned – much to the delight of campaigners who were calling for an “independent review” of the council’s original decision.

The exam – when and where

The High Court hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London will begin tomorrow.

It should last two days.

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