It is difficult not to feel just a little sympathy for the environmental groups campaigning against Birmingham International Airport’s proposed runway extension.

Try as they might, Friends of the Earth and the anti-airport noise group BANG have been unable to generate anything resembling a vociferous campaign.

With a decision about the £120 million scheme less than a fortnight away, the groups have resorted to not very funny sexual innuendo and support from B-list celebrities whose connections with Birmingham and the West Midlands is not immediately obvious.

Comedian Mark Thomas and the novelist Will Self were among 1,000 people persuaded to sign a Flyagra petition – miracle treatment that really keeps you up, geddit? – which was delivered to Solihull Council by campaigners dressed as pilots.

When only 1,000 people living close to an airport where the immediate catchment area must number over 200,000 households can be bothered to protest about a runway extension, you just sense this is a campaign that has failed to get off the ground. By comparison, protests against the Middle Quinton eco-town have been a master class in motivation.

The reason for the lack of concern over the expansion of BIA is quite simple. Most people accept that while the environmental impact of a 400-metre extension will be limited, particularly as planes become quieter and cleaner, the positive economic impact will be huge.

By offering non-stop flights to growing economies in China and India, BIA can ensure that Birmingham and the West Midlands competes for new business against the North-west and South-east of England where airports already offer this facility.

Those who would deny BIA a longer runway would also deny this region jobs and wealth.