BOSSES at some of Hampshire’s top businesses have said expansion at Southampton Airport is crucial to the county’s economic future.

Southampton and Winchester councils have both objected this week to plans to extend the airport’s runway.

Eastleigh Borough Council will consider the objections of its neighbouring authorities when it decides on the application.

The votes to oppose the scheme came straight after aviation minister Paul Maynard visited the airport and backed growth there.

Businesses backing the expansion include Exxon Mobil Fawley, ABP, Carnival UK, Ordnance Survey, the Ageas Bowl, Meachers Global, DP World Southampton, Solent Stevedores, Savills and Barker-Mill Estates.

Gary Whittle, commercial director of Meachers Global Logistics, said: “As one of the UK’s leading independent providers of international freight and transport logistics services, the connectivity Southampton Airport provides is vital for us to continue to attract and service customers throughout Europe and beyond.

“The ability for us, and our customers, to fly directly from Southampton reduces the time, money and any emissions we expend travelling to and from London airports. Moreover, the additional routes that will be made possible through the expansion of the airport will play an important role in our own future growth and success, and the success of many other businesses in the Solent region.”

Rod Bransgrove, chairman of the Ageas Bowl, said: “The Ageas Bowl supports the principle of the runway extension for the significant positive economic impact it will have on the local area in terms of job creation, inward investment and greater connectivity and route choice for passengers from both the business and leisure sectors, provided that important environmental concerns can be appropriately addressed.”

Tom Dynes, operations director of Solent Stevedores, said: “As a local employer operating both nationally and internationally, good connectivity to the city is vital in facilitating our business.”

The airport has said lengthening the runway would also allow the release of 70 hectares for an innovation park in its north eastern sector. This would be built within four to five years and could generate thousands of jobs, it says.

The airport expansion itself would create 400 jobs, it argues.

Expansion could also lessen Southampton Airport’s reliance on a single airline, Flybe, which won concessions from the government earlier this month to avoid a collapse.

The aviation minister told the Daily Echo this week: “Over 20 years or so we’ve seen different domestic airlines come and go. They’ve not been able to sustain a business model but Flybe is now almost a monopoly provider. The consequences that would have for economic activity around the country, connecting our regions and our nations, are so absolutely vital that we couldn’t afford for it just to disappear overnight, so we’re working hard with the airline to make it more sustainable. But with the regional airports review, we can help airports like Southampton be more resilient in the future, able to welcome a range of airlines, more destinations and more passengers in a sustainable way.”