Southampton Airport’s runway extension

Background

Southampton Airport, one-third of the AGS Airports group, retained BECG to provide communications and stakeholder engagement services in support of its runway extension proposals. Following the collapse of budget airline Flybe, Southampton sought permission from Eastleigh Borough Council to extend the northern end of its runway by 164 metres, in order to maintain its viability as a regional airport.

Your team had to fire up the general public to vote to save the airport. And, wow, they did it! The targeting was most effective and the results show the effect and impact. The staff at the airport are delighted, they have job security for the first time in a year. A large amount of that is down to your superb team.

Operations Director, Southampton Airport

Key Project Information

Southampton Airport’s runway application faced significant opposition from a well-organised coalition of environmental and residents’ groups. As a result of their campaigning, Eastleigh Borough Council’s initial public consultation on the runway application showed that nearly 68% of respondents opposed the plans. These figures reflected the activity of a vocal minority rather than the position of most local people in the Borough and wider region, so BECG was brought on board to help manage the application communications.

 

How we assisted

  • For three subsequent public consultations over the course of nearly a year, BECG delivered a comprehensive communications strategy designed to connect with the supportive, yet disengaged, majority within the community. Deploying a range of social media and digital methods, direct public affairs engagement with councillors and MPs, as well as work with broadcast and traditional media, BECG informed local people about the runway application, explained why it mattered to the future of their airport, and asked them to register their support on Eastleigh Borough Council’s planning file or contact their councillor.
  • In doing so, the campaign reached out to people who never normally engage with a planning application of any kind. By the end, the voice of the supportive, previously silent majority was heard: nearly 4,800 local people registered their support for the airport’s runway, with more than 60% of respondents backing the scheme.
  • In tandem with supporter mobilisation, BECG also managed consistent engagement with stakeholders, connecting the airport with senior Council leaders, influential local parliamentarians, regional business leaders, before producing clear briefing materials for politicians setting out the case for a longer runway.
  • BECG was also an integral part of the core team that prepared Southampton Airport for 33 hours of determination meetings before Eastleigh Borough Councillors.

The support, advice and expertise from BECG was absolutely central to us securing last week’s result, which has safeguarded the future of Southampton Airport. For BECG to have galvanised support in the way they did was a major achievement and we were lucky to have them on our side.

Head of Communications, AGS Airports

Outcome

  • At a meeting of its Full Council in April 2021, Eastleigh Borough Council voted by a clear and decisive majority to grant planning consent for the runway proposals, safeguarding the future of Southampton Airport and offering job security to hundreds, while opening up employment opportunities for thousands.
  • This planning approval represents a landmark achievement, as it is the first time that an airport in the UK has secured permission to extend or expand its runway since Aberdeen in 2011.
  • BECG continues to be involved with the post-decision communications with councillors, MPs, and the local community.