‘Beds gets the gain, Herts gets the pain’ - MPs respond to planned Luton Airport expansion
PUBLISHED: 08:00 11 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:47 11 January 2018
The planned expansion of Luton Airport and the impact aircraft noise will have on communities have been condemned by district MPs.
London Luton Airport (LLA) will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year with the opening of a new terminal building, offering passengers new shops and restaurants and eight additional boarding gates. Airlines are also introducing new routes, with Wizz Air offering eight new destinations and EasyJet offering five.
Luton Borough Council has also proposed to expand the airport to accommodate 36 to 38 million passengers under the London Luton Airport Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020 to 2050.
In a debate in Parliament on Tuesday, St Albans MP Anne Main said that the proposed Luton Airport expansion must not go ahead “if strong protections against further noise pollution are not deliverable and guaranteed”.
Mrs Main spoke on behalf of residents who have been affected by aircraft noise, saying that there has been an 150 per cent increase in complaints since the airport introduced the new RNAV navigation system in 2015, which narrows flight paths and concentrates noise over a smaller area.
She also criticised the way that noise levels are measured. In their most recent report, the airport measured the average noise level during a 16-hour day to be 47dB, which is the equivalent of somewhere between a quiet office and a bedroom.
Mrs Main said: “Standing in my constituents’ gardens, that is not the experience of residents. An average over a 16-hour day was given when noise can be felt in different ways.
“At six o’clock in the morning I am aware of the noise far more than at 10 o’clock in the morning when my washing machine and dishwasher are going. So the average masks the true life experience of residents and it is bogus.”
Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami agreed with Mrs Main, explaining that the number of passengers per year has increased by 70 per cent over the past seven years, and that noise complaints had increased 22-fold in two years.
He said: “Luton Borough Council’s ownership of Luton Airport leaves many of my constituents feeling that Luton Borough Council has one real interest: growing passenger numbers and therefore revenue for its airport.
“That interest has been pursued without any real consideration for the significant negative impacts on the people of Hertfordshire that I have outlined here today.
“As one of my constituents put it to me, Bedfordshire gets the gain, and Hertfordshire gets the pain.”
Andrew Lambourne, of campaign group LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), has echoed Mrs Main’s concerns that not enough is being done to tackle aircraft noise. He said: “Let’s just remember that they were given permission to increase capacity to 18 million by 2028, NOT by 2020 - and that permission went alongside promises of noise mitigation which have not been delivered.
“This is a celebration of yet more broken promises. The airport has now breached its night noise limit and rather than throttling back until planes are quieter, it wants permission for the planning condition to be ignored - a travesty.”
Cllr Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Council, said: “We will make sure that we deliver a full and robust consultation process that ensures everyone gets the opportunity to have their say. All feedback will be very carefully considered and used to shape the emerging proposal.
“At every stage in the process we will balance essential regional and national economic and employment growth with the needs of communities, and minimise and mitigate the impacts we know a major airport brings.”