Controversial plans to extend the runway at Birmingham International Airport finally got the go-ahead last night from Solihull Council.
News of the successful planning application came as a massive transport boost was announced on the region’s railways. Network Rail unveiled improvements with £90 million invested in the West Midlands as well as funding for the £600 million New Street Station project.
The funding allows for more train services in Bromsgrove and Redditch, longer platforms at stations across Birmingham, Coventry and Walsall and signalling improvements across the West Coast Main Line which links the Midlands to London (Report Page 14).
Birmingham Airport had to resubmit its proposed Section 106 agreement, which explained how it planned to counteract noise pollution and to protect the environment. Councillors on the planning committee approved the 400-metre extension in December - subject to the amended guarantees that were made at last night’s meeting.
Measures include limits on night flights, noise control, public transport plans and a 20-year annual £10,000 tree planting scheme. Expansion will enable bigger jets to fly non-stop to long-haul destinations, such as China, India and the west coast of America.
Business leaders and the airport operators insist that the longer runway will boost the economy, create new jobs and allow the region to compete on the global stage. But the planning committee heard five representations from worried residents, including Russell Hog, from the Catherine-de-Barnes Residents’ Association. He said: “Night flying is the real issue for local residents. We are looking at the council to protect us.”
Joe Kelly, deputy chief executive of the airport company, said: “The airport is wholly committed to sustainable aviation. This is an important night for the airport, which is growing and will continue to grow. It is economically important when you consider that Tata, who bought Jaguar Land Rover, cannot fly direct to Birmingham from India. This is the single most important transport priority for the entire region, apart from the New Street Gateway project. It is important in economic terms but also in opening up the region to the rest of the world.”
Environmental campaigners described the agreement as a wasted opportunity.
West Midlands Friends of the Earth criticised the airport and the council for “failing to incorporate a robust climate-change policy.”
Spokesman Chris Crean said: “While the airport’s continuing commitment to mitigating the environmental impact of its operation and development is welcome, we remain concerned that the Section 106 Agreement as it stands allows for a considerable growth in aircraft noise pollution, night flights and greenhouse-gas emissions.”
An airport spokeswoman said: “There were issues raised on the night for which we are awaiting further clarification. Once we have understood the clarification we can take the project forward.”
The committee voted unanimously in favour of the plans and the matter will be passed to the government for the final rubber-stamping.