HC Deb 03 December 1958 vol 596 cc150-2W
113. Mr. J. Howard

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has now received a reply from the Southampton Corporation to his letter concerning Eastleigh Airport; and what action he proposes to take in this matter.

1958. Mr. Watkinson

I am circulating below the text of my Department's letter of 3rd October to Southampton Corporation and of the corporation's reply. In the circumstances, there can be no question of proceeding with the construction of a hard runway at Eastleigh Airport, and Viscount aircraft which it had been intended to introduce for the services now operating from there will not be able to use the airport. I shall, however, continue to operate it for the time being while alternative arrangements are being made to serve the traffic. Before disposing of the airport I shall have further consultations with the interested parties, including the airlines and the local authorities.

Following are the letters:

Ref. APB 6/34/02 Pt. 4.

3rd October, 1958.


I am directed by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to refer to the discussions between the Corporation and the Ministry on the future of Eastleigh aerodrome in the light of the need for a hard runway which would provide the length and the operational approaches necessary for Viscounts (which the operators have said that they intend to use on the services now operating from Eastleigh), and of the developments planned for the railway installations adjoining the aerodrome. At a meeting at the Ministry on 18th April the Corporation were invited to indicate whether they would be prepared to participate in the development of the airport. You wrote on 26th June to say that the Corporation wished to know the Minister's decision on certain points of major policy before they could give the matter proper consideration.

The Minister has now decided that he would not be justified in asking British Railways to alter their proposed developments at Eastleigh. He is satisfied that if Railway modernisation plans are not to be seriously hampered, no modification of their plans for Eastleigh is practical that would significantly reduce the potential risks to aircraft, if runways "C" or "D" were developed. Irrespective of railway developments, neither runway provides a potential length that would be sufficient for more than a limited time. (The runway alignments referred to are of course those shown in the plan attached to the technical report sent to the Corporation on 14th April, 1958.)

The development of the aerodrome would, therefore, involve construction of a runway on alignment "E". At the meeting on 18th April when the factors affecting the development of Runway "E" were fully discussed, it was agreed that this would be a major engineering project involving very extensive filling and drainage and that although the cost could not be clearly estimated without a detailed survey it would be of the order of£1m.-£1½m.

A new control tower, fire station and terminal building would also be required for the long-term development of the aerodrome. The total cost would therefore not be less than some£1,250,000 and might well be as much as£2m.

The Corporation will be aware that the net annual cost to the Exchequer of operating the aerodrome is some£53,000 (including the cost of technical services but excluding any provision for depreciation and capital charges). Most of the traffic carried on the services at present operating from Eastleigh could be catered for quite satisfactorily if the services were transferred to Hurn which is already operationally suitable and which could be developed at much less cost. In the light of all these considerations the Minister had decided that further capital expenditure from Government funds of the order indicated above could not be justified.

The Minister recognises that if the developments mentioned above are not carried out, this will mean the rapid decline of the aerodrome and possibly its closure within a few years. If, however, the Corporation were prepared to buy back and take over the operation of the aerodrome and to accept prime responsibility for the cost of development, the Minister would be prepared to consider the position further.

The Minister would be grateful to have the views of the Corporation as soon as possible.

I am Sir,

Your obedient Servant,


Controller of Ground Services.

The Town Clerk,

County Borough of Southampton,



County Borough of Southampton.

Civic Centre,


My Ref.


Your Ref.

APB 6/34/02 Pt.4.

th November,


Southampton (Eastleigh) Airport

With reference to your letter of 3rd and 30th October last, regarding the future of this airport, the matter was discussed by my Council at their meeting yesterday, and I am directed to forward you the following resolution:—

"That the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation be informed that, in view of the contents of the Ministry's letter, the Council are not prepared to take over the financial responsibility of the airport."

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,


Town Clerk.

The Controller of Ground Services,

Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation,

Berkeley Square House,

London, W.1.