PLANS to expand Southampton Airport are “vital” for the connectivity of Romsey and the wider area, according to the deputy leader of Test Valley Borough Council.

Councillors in Eastleigh will be asked to make the final decision on plans to expand the runway at Southampton Airport during a full council meeting set to be held on April 8 at 2pm.

It comes as the plans to extend the runway by 164m were discussed by the Eastleigh Local Area Committee for almost 17 hours between March 25 and 26, but were eventually rejected.

The move means that full council at Eastleigh Borough Council will have to take the final decision.

Deputy leader for Test Valley Borough Council, Nick Adams-King, said the local committee’s decision last month was “short-sighted” and hopes the plans are approved next week.

He explained: “The airport is vital to our connectivity and, much more importantly, it is essential if we want Southampton to remain the major cruise centre that it is.

“It is particularly vital for those people across the country who use Southampton Airport to access cruises here.

“I understand the environmental concerns, but I think they are outnumbered by our need to improve the capacity of the airport.”

However, town and borough councillor Nik Daas believes now is the time to put the environment first and not focus on improving air travel when demand for flights has nosedived, due to coronavirus. He said: “I would agree [with Eastleigh’s decison] that rejecting this plan at this moment in time is the best thing to do, because we know travel is a huge contributor to climate change. It is something we have to think about, because if we don’t have a world that is actually protected then these jobs are not going to be there, because it will put humans in a state of emergency. But, if we look at jobs that are climate-friendly that will sustain us for the future.”

He added: “Air travel is on the down and people may decide to not go abroad at all or as much in the future, so is there the demand for a new runway at Southampton?

“Right now we have to think about our economic development for the future and travel, because things are going to change in the future and that is why we have to prioritise something that is more climate-friendly.”

Meanwhile, borough councillor Celia Dowden said it is going to be “an extremely difficult decision” for councillors to make, whatever the outcome.

She explained: “It is balancing the climate emergency or convenience for residents who use the airport.

“In the end, you just have to listen to both sides [of the argument] and weigh up what is right for the community perhaps at this time.”