CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand Southampton Airport have moved a step forward.

A planning application to expand the airport’s runway by 164 metres and add 600 parking spaces to the long stay car park at the site have been submitted to Eastleigh Borough Council.

The news comes hours after campaigners protested in Guildhall Square in Southampton before attending a meeting at Southampton City Council to present a petition signed by 1,900 people asking councillors to oppose the expansion of the airport.

As previously reported, campaigners raised concerns over the impact the expansion would have on noise, air pollution and the environment.

According to the plans published by the airport, measures will be in place to mitigate the impact on noise and carbon emissions.

These would include a charging system to discourage noisier aircraft and ensuring that the airport’s direct operation become carbon neutral by 2030.

The operator of the first electric aircraft would also have free landing charges, the documents revealed.

According to the plans, the proposed 600 parking spaces would be created on land between Mitchell Way and the railway line.

But the airport added: “The airport’s preference remains to encourage passengers to use public transport through enhanced rail/air ticketing, improved coach and cruise links and travel information sharing. The airport also recognises that there is some concern raised by the public with regard to passengers using Eastleigh residential roads for parking. The provision of this additional parking should mitigate this risk to some extent.”

The new runway will only be utilised by aircraft taking off and heading south.

“Southampton Airport has one of the shortest runways in the UK and is therefore unable to provide the same breadth of European air services that other regional airports can offer. As a result, unnecessary long journeys need to be made on some of the country’s busiest road to the already congested London airports and along the south coast to Bournemouth to access such destinations,” the airport added.

As previously reported, at the meeting held in Southampton on Wednesday city bosses encouraged residents to comment on the application.

The official consultation period will run until December 23 while a final decision is set to be made by councillors in Eastleigh.

Eastleigh council leader Keith House had previously said concerns will be looked at very carefully. It comes after airline Flybe announced it will drop eight routes from its Southampton services next summer.