A HOST of businesses and a government minister have backed growth at Southampton Airport ahead of a crucial decision on extending its runway.

The move came as Southampton’s Labour councillors said they would oppose the runway application, which will be decided by councillors in Eastleigh.

A list of Hampshire businesses signalled their support yesterday for growth at the export: Exxon Mobil Fawley, port operator ABP, cruise line Carnival UK, Ordnance Survey, the Ageas Bowl, Meachers Global, DP World Southampton, Solent Stevedores, Savills and Barker-Mill Estates.

The backing came as aviation minister Paul Maynard said Southampton could be at the “cutting edge” of sustainable growth.

He was visiting as part of the government’s Regional Air Connectivity Review, which is examining regional airports in the wake of the aid given to struggling airline Flybe.

Mr Maynard told the Daily Echo: “We strongly believe, as a government, in levelling up the regions, making sure everyone can access economic growth wherever it is possible and I know how important the airport is to the wider region, here in Hampshire and beyond, so I want to see airports like this prosper in a sustainable way.”

He said it was possible to address environmental concerns while helping airports grow. “I believe domestic aviation will be the first sector to decarbonise and if we abolish and remove domestic aviation, we’ll make it that much harder to take the next step to decarbonising flights into Europe and beyond,” he said.

“Southampton Airport has a target of being carbon-neutral by 2030. That’s actually one of the earliest dates I’ve seen among regional airports so Southampton’s at the cutting edge of the green agenda for airports.”

Southampton City Council’s planning and rights of way committee will today scrutinise the application to extend the runway.

City council leader Christopher Hammond said that “at this time and with the application in its current form we would urge the committee to resolve to write to Eastleigh Borough Council asking it to reject the application”.

Neil Garwood, managing director of Southampton Airport, said the Flybe crisis showed the need for the airport to be “resilient”.

“If we take short-sighted views and we don’t focus on growth and development, then the future for our region, for our airport and future connectivity is extremely challenging,” he said.