LUTON Airport’s proposal to double the number of passengers to 18 million a year has alarmed residents in Harpenden, with one labelling the move as “utter madness”.

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The airport is also looking at what its future potential capacity could be, if not constrained by its current boundary.

However following a Freedom of Information request from local campaign group HarpendenSky.com, a spokesman has admitted it was inevitable that flying more passengers will increase air traffic and plane noise.

The airport is owned by Luton borough council, but operated, managed and developed by a private consortium, London Luton Airport Operations Ltd.

Luton borough councillor Robin Harris, chair of Luton Airport, said that while it was not looking at expanding beyond its boundary at present, it could be part of future development plans.

He explained: “We are proposing to grow as far as the boundary of the airport.”

The organisation is investigating options to expand the airport using its existing runway and has been in talks with the Department for Transport about its indicative forecast of “just” 15 million passengers per year by 2050.

Cllr Harris said that figure significantly underestimated the contribution Luton could make to the economy, and that the capacity could instead be around 18 million passengers annually.

He added: “There isn’t a plan for people to comment on; we are looking at a proposal to develop the airport up to its current boundary. I don’t want to play on people’s fears and speculate on what may happen.

“There is a process we are dealing with, and people are getting unnecessarily agitated without knowing what the facts are.”

However members of HarpendenSky.com, a group initiated to protect residents from noisy low flying planes, are protesting against any possible expansion.

Neil MacArthur, who launched the campaign, said: “If you double the capacity you double the problem. People are already on edge.”

Harpenden resident Norman Carnt said any such proposal should be turned down as airlines operating from Luton do not follow flight paths across St Albans district correctly and fly too low over residential areas.

He accused Luton borough council of having a, “cynical disregard of their responsibilities to the adjoining community.”

The council has recently boasted its residents pay the lowest local authority tax in Bedfordshire because it received significant income from the airport.

South Harpenden resident Peter Wilson said: “With Luton sitting in the middle of a highly populated area, it is utter madness to increase the level of traffic. I protest in the strongest possible terms.”

Peter Mannell, of Harpenden, said that existing transport and airport access arrangements are totally inadequate for the airport’s current nine million passengers.

John Davis, Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN) representative on the airport’s consultative committee, said he feared Luton would attempt to extend its taxiway, to increase the number of planes taking off.

Cllr Harris admitted that the existing taxiway was an “issue” but there was no plan for an additional runway.

He said: “There would be a slight change to the taxiway, nothing substantial.”

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