New Birmingham International Airport boss Paul Kehoe has made an impassioned plea for the West Midlands to get the ideal Christmas gift – in the shape of a long-awaited runway extension.

Mr Kehoe said the proposed 400- metre extension could add four million passengers a year to the airport, enabling flights to destinations such as China and the west coast of the United States.

The airport chief issued a call to the region to back the extension, seven days ahead of the decision by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. Planning officials have recommended that the authority backs the application and a decision will be taken next Monday.

Mr Kehoe said: “It is important we obtain this decision to improve global connectivity, enhance economic growth and support the development of new jobs for local people. Being able to fly from Birmingham could take millions of cars off the roads by clawing back Midlands-based traffic from other UK airports.

“Without it, overseas investors could go elsewhere; it’s happened before. Our proposals for a runway extension are proportionate and comply with all the appropriate national, local and regional policies. This is a demanding project and the first critical step in its delivery is gaining planing approval.”

Forecasts for Birmingham show that growth will occur with or without a longer runway but, of the 27 million passengers projected to travel through Birmingham by 2030, four million would be as a result of the extension.

“The planning application is not about whether aviation is good or bad. It’s about meeting policy objectives, protecting the well-being of local people and mitigating environmental impacts. Even by 2030, the extra departures as a result of an extension will only total 23 a day but in return will almost double the number of job opportunities at the airport,” said Mr Kehoe

Airport bosses say the environmental effects are negligible, with all emissions staying within acknowledged standards. The airport claims that all natural habitats would be protected in the plans and that veteran trees would be retained with other hedgerows and trees replaced locally.

However, the Birmingham Airport anti-Noise Group has criticised the cost benefit assessment of the new runway. James Botham, secretary of the group, said: “The cost-benefit analysis carried out by York Aviation as part of its Economic Impact Assessment of the runway extension proposal included an estimate of the future economic cost of the extra carbon dioxide emissions from planes using the extended run way.

“However, we know that the total global-warming impact of aircraft greenhouse-gas emissions at cruising altitude is at least twice as great as the impact of their carbon dioxide emissions alone. When we consider that, according to York Aviation’s ‘sensitivity test’, the cost of aircraft carbondioxide emissions would have to rise by only 36 per cent to reduce the net present value of the runway extension to £0, it is likely the true climate-change cost of the runway extension outweighs all potential benefits identified by the consultants’ analysis put together.”

Anyone wishing to give their opinion on the extension can write to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, quoting ‘Planning Services’ and ‘Application 2008/22’ at: or Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Planning Services, Po Box 11652, Solihull, B91 9YA.