Southampton Airport: Campaigners get legal chance to challenge decision to expand runway

A COURT’s decision to refuse a judicial review over controversial plans to expand Southampton Airport’s runway has been overturned.

Friday, 10th December 2021, 7:50 am

Opponents of the proposals to extend the runway by 164m (538ft) have won an appeal against the High Court’s initial decision to reject their legal challenge.

Airport bosses said the move comes as a disappointment and would delay ‘much-needed economic benefits’.

But campaigners described it as ‘an opportunity to convince the court’ that permission for the runway expansion ‘was unlawfully granted’.

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Southampton Airport. Pic AGS Airports

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But members of Group Opposed to the Expansion of Southampton Airport Ltd ( GOESA) called for the decision to undergo ‘independent scrutiny’.

They accused the council of having formally approved the plans before the government had chosen whether or not to call in the decision.

The council has always defended its action and said the government had been kept informed.

GOESA members will take their legal arguments to the High Court in the new year.

Rowan Smith, a solicitor representing GOESA Ltd, said the latest court decision was ‘a clear vindication’ of campaigners’ work and perseverance.

‘They will now have another opportunity to convince the court that permission for an expanded Southampton airport was unlawfully granted and should be reversed’, Mr Smith said.

John Lauwerys of GOESA Ltd added: ‘We are delighted that this latest decision will enable us to set out our case, which we believe to be very powerful.’

Campaigners had also raised concerns over the environmental impact of the runway expansion and claimed there was ‘insufficient basis’ for the council to conclude that the airport was not viable without the extension of the runway.

Southampton Airport confirmed that the latest court’s decision would result in a judicial review of the borough council’s decision to approve the runway expansion.

A spokesperson for Southampton Airport said: ‘This is a disappointment to the airport, as it will further delay the much-needed economic benefits and employment opportunities that our runway extension will deliver.

‘However, given the extensive scrutiny and public consultations undertaken by Eastleigh Borough Council, we are confident that the judicial review will find in favour of the council’s resolution to grant planning permission.’

Cllr Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, said: ‘The legal bar to progress judicial reviews is very low so it was not that surprising that the court has allowed a full hearing to take place next year.

‘The council has every confidence that it will win this case but it must be right that legal processes are allowed to be completed.

‘The concern must remain that this hearing may not take place until next summer which continues to leave our airport, vital for the regional economy, at risk.’

A date for the hearing is yet to be confirmed.