CAMPAIGNERS have backed a report that claims Southampton Airport downplayed environmental damage as it planned its runway extension.

A report by the New Economics Foundation found that applications to expand four airports, including Southampton, ignored up to £13.4bn worth of potential damage to the climate collectively.

The Foundation claims that plans at Southampton, Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Stansted airports are “likely” to account for an increase in annual airport-level emissions of up to 3.7m tonnes of CO2 and CO2-equivalent emissions in 2035.

The runway extension at Southampton Airport was given the green light by Eastleigh Borough Council in April, but now campaigners have backed the foundations report.

Richard Mould-Ryan, from AXO Southampton, said: “This report backs up what AXO and others have said throughout the planning process, that the Airport’s expansion proposals would result in a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

“In addition to the increased noise impacts on 46,000 local residents, this adds strength to our request that the application should be called in by the Secretary of State.”

But Steve Szalay, Operations Director at the airport said the report is “misleading and factually incorrect.”

The figure of £13.4b represents the financial value of emissions, identifying the cost to society of “recapturing” them, or the cost of the damage caused by climate breakdown if they are not.

Alex Chapman, researcher at the Foundation, said: “The Secretary of State should step in and conduct an independent review of all of these proposals and their compatibility with the UK’s climate targets.”

But Mr Szalay added: “We have delivered a worst case scenario in the Environmental Impact Assessment presented during our recent planning application which would see just a 164 metre extension to our existing runway.

“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.”