Campaign group said council had ’underplayed’ the scheme’s environmental impact

Another UK airport expansion scheme has been stalled after a legal challenge on environmental grounds. 

Plans to extend Southampton Airport’s runway have been derailed after a challenge was given a hearing at the High Court.

Campaign group Geosa Ltd (Group opposed to expansion of Southampton Airport) has been granted a judicial review into Eastleigh council’s decision to approve a 164m extension of the airport’s runway in April.

Southampton airport

The plans were approved by 22 votes to 13 after a fraught 19-hour debate a month after being rejected by the council’s local area committee.

Supporters say the extension, which would allow longer haul flights, have widespread local support and would provide hundreds of jobs.

But campaigners said at the time that the move was a “bleak day” for the environment and a “setback in the transition to a sustainable future”.

Goesa Ltd has crowdfunded £20,000 and received £35,000 in direct donations to pay for the judicial review, which is being brought by a legal team led by Leigh Day and David Wolfe QC.

The group said the airport had “greatly overstated the economic benefits of the expansion, which will adversely affect the quality of lives of around 46,000 residents, while hugely underplaying the environmental impact”.

It added that a judicial review was the only way to give the decision “full scrutiny”.

The airport’s operations director Steve Szalay said the group was seeking to challenge a “democractic decision”.

He said: “We are hugely disappointed by their decision to bring legal action, particularly given that nearly 4,800 local people wrote to express their support for the plans.

“The runway extension is a key part of our plans for the future of the airport and will deliver significant economic and employment opportunities to Eastleigh and the Central South.

”Unfortunately, this legal challenge will delay the creation of much-needed jobs at a time of high post-pandemic unemployment, including 265 job opportunities during the construction phase.”

Szalay added: “In light of the extensive scrutiny and public consultations undertaken by Eastleigh Borough Council, we are confident that the courts will back the Council’s decision to approve the runway application.”

The challenge comes after proposals to redevelop Leeds Bradford airport were delayed by Robert Jenrick in April following a referral to the government because of the scheme’s contribution to climate change.

Birmingham airport’s expansion plans were also put on hold last year because of the covid-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court has now cleared a path for Heathrow aiport’s third runway after it was ruled unlawful last year when the High Court said it breached the Paris climate change agreement.