SOUTHAMPTON Airport has dismissed as “misleading” a report that says airport operators have overestimated the benefits of their expansion schemes while downplaying the environmental damage.

The New Economics Foundation said four regional airports had overstated the case for their schemes by not putting a monetary value on the climate costs.

Eastleigh Borough Council gave the go-ahead in April for a 164-metre extension to the runway at Southampton Airport after almost 36 hours of debate. An area committee had previously voted against the application.

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The New Economics Foundation’s report, called Turbulence Expected, looked at the expansion schemes of four smaller airports – Southampton, Leeds Bradford, Stansted and Southampton.

It argues that all four “have significantly overstated the economic case for their schemes by ignoring material monetised climate costs”.

The report estimates the monetary cost of CO2 emissions at Southampton between 2025 and 2050 to be between £453.8million and £2.62billion.

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It acknowledges that Southampton took the most pessimistic approach of the four airports to estimating environmental impact.

Southampton factored the impact of departing and arriving passengers into its calculations, whereas other airports only counted departures and viewed arriving passengers as another country’s responsibility.

However, it said passenger emission estimates for Southampton seemed low when compared with Department for Transport estimates of fuel efficiency at non-London airports.

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It said of the four airports’ schemes: “Appraisals have failed to take a comprehensive and robust approach to sensitivity analysis of uncertain parameters and have presented an overly-optimistic vision of the future climate impact of the proposed expansion schemes.

“Questions are raised by this assessment regarding the extent to which decision makers had access to a complete, robust and precautionary set of evidence upon which to base their determination. While council officers were able to commission external support to help them in interpreting submitted evidence, and requesting further clarficiation, there remains cause for concern.”

It adds: “Not only are local authorities ill-equipped to handle appraisal of highly complex, far reaching, and high risk schemes (particularly in the midst of a global pandemic) but there are key questions regarding whether local authorities are the appropriate stakeholder to appraise the climate cost of expansion.”

Steve Szalay, operations director at Southampton Airport, said: “This report is misleading and factually incorrect.

“We have delivered a worst case scenario in the Environmental Impact Assessment presented during our recent planning application which would see just a 164m extension to our existing runway. This conservative approach doesn’t rely on fuels or technologies that are under development and makes full provision for all in-bound and outbound flights.

“We are wholly committed to working with the wider aviation industry to tackle climate change through new technologies and the introduction of new, more sustainable fuel, however we appreciate that there isn’t an overnight solution.”