Local Plans must have regard to National Policy, including the National Aviation Policy Framework*. Government supports growth in the aviation industry and the economic benefits an airport can bring to a local area are well documented. However, growth must be coupled with steps to mitigate environmental impacts such as carbon emissions, noise and air quality. The challenge for the New Local Plan is to balance the economic benefits of growth at the airport in terms of jobs created and its beneficial impact on the wider local economy, whilst setting an appropriate framework to manage the environmental impacts of airport activity in line with national policy.
Joint Area Action Plan (JAAP)
London Southend Airport is partly within the Southend Borough boundary, but the larger part of the airport sits within Rochford District. In 2014 the two authorities jointly produced and adopted the London Southend Airport and Environs Joint Area Action Plan (JAAP). The JAAP sets out proposals for management of the growth of the Airport to 2031, along with continued development of the Airport Business Park at Aviation Way, Saxon Business Park and Nestuda Way Business Park. These modern business parks focus on providing quality employment space, building on links to the Airport.
The JAAP’s shared vision for the future development of London Southend Airport and its environs is to deliver:
‘An area that realises its potential as a driver for the sub-regional economy, providing significant employment opportunities and ensuring a good quality of life for its residents and workers. To achieve this, the area’s assets and opportunities for employment need to be supported and developed’
Operating an Airport near a densely populated urban area has a number of challenges. These include noise, air quality and managing surface access. The JAAP includes a range of policies to complement the conditions within the planning consent, to help manage and monitor environmental impacts.
The JAAP is now nearly seven years old and in need of updating and reviewing. As the Southend New Local Plan can only apply policy provisions to its own administrative area, in liaison with Rochford District Council, the Council is considering how best the JAAP should be reviewed and updated. Possible options could be:
- inclusion of a high-level policy within the Southend New Local Plan, developed through co-operation with Rochford District Council, with more detail being set out in an accompanying master plan; or
- development of new policies for the management of the Airport at a later date, as part of a review of the JAAP, jointly with Rochford District Council; or
- a combination of a) and b).
Whatever option is considered the most appropriate it will need to reflect key issues including the following:
- effective management of growth of the Airport and associated facilities such as parking and hotels;
- addressing noise issues both in the immediate vicinity of the Airport, such as provision of acoustic fences; and over the urban area (especially Eastwood/Leigh);
- appropriate management of air quality in and around the airport;
- an overall Environmental Management Strategy that supports the Airport in achieving its ambition to be a zero carbon operation as soon as possible; and
- surface access management, in particular addressing impacts on the A127, nearby roads and parking and looking more widely at the role of the Airport as a “Transport Hub” for the broader area.
Number of Flights
The JAAP and existing planning controls (09/01960/FULM) allow for 53,300 air traffic movements per annum (ATMs) at the airport, including for both commercial flights and other general aviation (mostly smaller planes; private charters; helicopters, flying school, etc). The JAAP envisaged this would facilitate no more than 2 million passengers per annum (mppa) during the plan period to 2031. However, the 2mppa was achieved through 37,000 ATMs in 2019/20. This is due to the increasing capacity of aircraft facilitated as part of the runway extension so many more passengers can now be moved per plane.
In 2019 the airport and businesses located at it supported approximately 1,500 jobs, bringing considerable economic benefits to the local economy, with a proportion of these being highly skilled. A further 2,200 jobs are supported indirectly in supporting the Airport. Expansion of the Airport would increase the economic impacts; for example, if the Airport reached the capacity of the existing consent (between 6 - 8 million passengers) this would result in around 4,000 jobs, plus an estimated additional 5,000 more with links to the airport.
The Airport is developing a Masterplan that will be subject to public consultation. The Masterplan will identify the level of flights that the existing runway can accommodate; what additional physical facilities will be required and how environmental impacts such as noise can be managed. It is anticipated that expansion could lead to the creation of a significant number of jobs, with up to 6,600 employed at the Airport and a significant number of jobs linked to the Airport.
Covid 19 has had a significant impact on passenger and employment numbers. One of the main operators, Easyjet, has closed its base at Southend. Passenger numbers have plummeted by over 90%. Cargo flights which are controlled by the current planning consent to 10% of total movements, have continued including those operated at night. Because of the nature of the logistics industry some cargo flights are only able to operate during this period. It is anticipated it will take 3-5 years to reach pre-Covid levels of passenger movements. Employment levels will also need to recover.
Esken, formerly Stobart Aviation, are responsible for development and operations of London Southend Airport. Despite the impacts of Covid, Esken remains confident that it will see a return to its pre-Covid growth trajectory over the medium and longer term as summarised in Table 20, and indeed, will see a return to high levels of passenger travel earlier than other airports as it is more reliant on the short-haul travel market.
Esken estimates that the existing 53,300 ATM limit could allow for between 6 to 8 mppa by 2031, depending on the proportion of commercial flights and size of aircraft used. The existing runway has the capacity to accommodate more flights beyond the current permission.
Esken has indicated that construction of new airport facilities would be guided by their preparation of a Masterplan which will be subject to public consultation. The Masterplan will be an important element in delivering environmental ambitions as well as economic growth. The Airport has an ambition to become zero carbon by the mid 2020’s.
Table 20: Planned and Projected Growth of the Airport
Air traffic movements (atm) per annum at the Airport*
Number of Passengers per annum
Estimated capacity of passengers per annum
Estimated direct jobs supported by airport operation
Position at 2019/20
Planning Permission and JAAP policy provisions up to
planned and allowed through current planning permission
6 – 8 million**
|Future Masterplan||Over one quarter higher than permitted levels||Depends on capacity of aircraft used||6,600|
* including commercial and general aviation (mostly smaller planes; private charters; helicopters; flying school, etc) ** dependent on size of aircraft and proportion of commercial flights. Lower limit based on around 13,000 non-commercial ATMs; Upper limit based on 100% commercial ATMs. Size of commercial aircraft assumed 150 passengers.
Land Use Implications
Investment in London Southend Airport has helped realise several strategic transport improvements, including the then new railway station which opened in 2011, an enhanced bus service, and new pedestrian and cycle links within that part of the town. Growth of the Airport also assisted with the case to secure government funding to improve various junction capacity along the A127. Current modal split of passengers coming to the airport is broadly 70:30 road to rail. This could be improved to 60:40 through more frequent and reliable services (particularly at weekends) on the Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street railway line with scope for becoming a market-lead in achieving 50-50 split.
The main peak hours of airport operation are generally early morning and late evening and flows of people travelling to and from the airport run counter to main commuting patterns. In that context, growth in passenger numbers can more easily be assimilated into rail capacity, though more frequent ‘airport’ services may be required as the airport continues to grow and encourage more people to travel by rail. Notwithstanding, continued growth in passenger travel will also create additional car journeys and this will also lead to the need to consider additional car parking at the airport. To minimise land take these could be provided as carefully designed multi-storey facilities. All new car parking would need to be EV enabled as the UK transitions towards electric and other environmentally friendly vehicles.
“Park and Ride” provision is another sustainable option and could potentially bring wider benefits to the transport network in Southend. Any such development would require planning consent. Consideration of the transport impacts of the Airport will need to be integrated with the overall transport planning for the immediate area and more widely.
The need for the air transport industry to address its contribution to achieving zero carbon is likely to promote further innovation; e.g. in use of electric and hydrogen fuelled aircraft. This will however take time to come to fruition and most fleets are unlikely to be so equipped until towards the end of the Plan period. The Airport has committed to the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme which involves auditing the Airport’s carbon footprint; identifying carbon reduction measures, working with partners and identifying an offset programme. It is anticipated that this will take 3-4 years to achieve. Reductions in carbon reflecting national standards and ambitions will also need to be incorporated in any future planning applications.
Air quality is impacted by Air Traffic movements; aircraft maintenance and also by traffic generated by the Airport. Improved air quality monitoring will be necessary at and around the Airport to ensure that the impacts of this are identified and appropriate action taken.
Overall, the New Local Plan will need to balance the economic benefits future growth of the airport will bring to the town whilst mitigating environmental impacts. It will be important that the communities most affected are able to benefit from this growth as well as seeing environmental impacts reduced.
What does this issue cover?
- Airport growth and implications
- Strategic and local highways issues related to surface access to airport, encouraging sustainable modes of travel, enhancing opportunities for walking and cycling and public transport
- Airport Business Park promoted for its role in bringing prosperity and job opportunities to the Borough
What information or evidence do we need for this issue?
- Local Transport Plan 3 including monitoring
- Public Health and Air Quality statistics
- Health and Wellbeing Strategy (draft)
- Southend Air Quality Strategy
- Low Emission Strategy (2018)
- Submission from airport operators to Local Plan (2021)
- Airport Economic Study (2020)
Related Southend 2050 Outcomes - where we want to be
- We act as a Green City with outstanding examples of energy efficient and carbon neutral buildings, streets, transport and recycling
- Working with the public transport providers to enhance and encourage the use of the existing provision moving towards a long-term aspiration to open new routes, enabling a wider accessibility to public transport options
- People have a wide choice of transport options
- We are leading the way in making public and private travel smart, clean and green