Southampton Airport Runway Extension: The issues for small businesses

  • 12 Nov 2020

As you may be aware, the future of Southampton airport hangs in the balance.

Already hit by the collapse of Flybe and general downturn in business due to Covid-19 and associated travel restrictions, the airport management have stated that they need an extension to the runway in order to accommodate slightly larger planes that will be more suited to routes across Europe.


Alongside the runway are plans to develop a substantial business park on land directly adjacent to the airport with that land owned by a leading pension fund. If that development goes ahead it will create around 1000 jobs on the new industrial park.

However it has been made clear that if the airport runway extension does not go ahead, the airport could close and the industrial parks will no longer be viable.

So the “prize” is potentially a development that will generate nearly 1000 jobs as well as more jobs within the airport complex itself.

The other side of the coin is that if the airport closes there will be the loss of nearly 2200 jobs in the airport and its support industries.

Of course, as the FSB, we never “take sides” in issues such as these but we do feel it is important to place the information in front of you.

The deadline for Southampton Airport’s Runway Extension Consultation is 15th November 2020. A link to the consultation is given below). On 17th December a decision will be made by Eastleigh Borough Council about whether or not the planned extension to the runway is granted. 


FSBs’ Area Lead for Hampshire Tim Colman, and Development Manager Nicola Bailey met with Southampton Airport’s Operations Director Steve Szalay and Head of Planning and Development Steve Thurston to understand the issues connected with the proposed Runway Extension, and what this potentially means to both small businesses and the Greater Southampton Economy.

We therefore summarise the facts according to Southampton Airport, regarding the future of the airport:

  • If the airport closes the net total of jobs lost to the Southampton area will be 3200
  • These jobs include:
    • 2200 airport jobs
    • 1000 jobs linked to the proposed Business Park that is reliant on the survival of the airport
  • The loss of the airport would have a negative impact on Southampton’s Cruise Industry - which is worth between £1.2 million and £1.5 million per ship docking to the Greater Southampton Economy.  With an average of 4 cruise ships docking per week, that equates to £5 million per week and around £250,000,000 per year. The airport is a key part of the fly/cruise industry and feeds air passengers in to the cruise ships.
  • The Runway is an extension of 164 metres - not a new runway - and will be within its existing boundary, adapting to current airline fleet requirements – a 9.5% increase
  • The extension is essential for survival not growth
  • Southampton will still have one of the shortest commercial runways in the UK
  • No major airline can economically use Southampton Airport due to the current short runway
  • If approved, only slightly larger planes will fly than those that have flown from the airport previously – no 747s or other wide body planes.
  • If approved, the number of flights could drop as the larger planes carry more passengers, and each flight is more carbon efficient
  • Forecasts predict only reaching 2018 flight numbers by 2034
  • Noise profiles will change as the modern jets have a much steeper take off and landing capability so the actual noise footprint is smaller. It is expected that the actual number of flights will be less – for many years – than the 2019 numbers
  • As mitigation for residents living in certain noise thresholds - there will be grants of up to £5000 per property (paid by the airport owners) for sound deadening technology.
  • A cap will be placed on vehicles using the airport to help reduce carbon emissions
  • The cap will be controlled by Eastleigh Borough Council
  • The cap will encourage Southampton Airport to further enhance its public transport connections, including in particular to the East towards Portsmouth
  • If the runway extension is not approved, the airport may not be able to afford appealing due to time delay and costs. This is a one-time decision.
  • If Southampton Airport closes, of the 3.1m passengers within the close catchment of Southampton Airport, at least 58% would still fly but have to drive to London

Please do have your say in this vital consultation, as transport and connectivity to the rest of the UK and Europe is a key consideration to the business community. Please find the consultation documents here.

So the main issue to support the plan is avoiding job losses and creating several thousand new jobs whilst the issue against the runway extension is that of (potential) noise.

The decision is yours