‘Absolutely no justification’ for Luton Airport expansion

An Easyjet plane takes off from Luton Airport. Picture: DANNY LOO

An Easyjet plane takes off from Luton Airport. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Campaigners from Harpenden are arguing that further expansion to Luton Airport is unjustified as passenger demand is being met by other airports.

London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) is proposing to expand the airport’s capacity to cater for up to 38 million passengers a year by 2050. The airport is currently ahead of schedule in its £160 million expansion to 18 million passengers per year, which is set to be completed by 2020.

The Department for Transport (DfT) forecast is for an increase of between 20 and 50 million passengers by 2025. Analysis from anti-noise campaign group Harpenden Sky, however, suggests that other airports in the south east of England will be able to provide more than enough demand for passenger growth, with the CEOs of five main airports, including Luton, looking for planning permission to generate an additional 87 million passenger capacity.

Neil MacArthur, chair of Harpenden Sky, said: “There is absolutely no justification for further expansion of Luton Airport.

“Ultimately the cost of flawed Luton Borough Council investment planning will fall on passengers who already face some of the highest costs just to arrive at the airport, park their cars or transport their baggage.”

Nigel Green, from St Albans Quieter Skies, said: “London Luton Airport is five years into an existing expansion program that was planned to last for 15 years. Already they are struggling to comply with noise controls agreed to cover that period – but rather than sort out the current problems they seek yet further growth in passenger numbers, with a doubling of capacity over that already agreed.

“The current program should be left to run until the original end date, during which time they should concentrate on resolving the existing problems of surface access, traffic pollution, and the relentless aircraft noise suffered by communities near unfairly routed flight paths.”

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A spokesman for campaign group Stop Low Flights From Luton (SLFL) agreed, saying: “Luton Airport keeps telling us they want to be good neighbours, but their actions belie this. Since 2013 they have more than doubled their night flights, and increased by 90 per cent the concentrated flights past Harpenden and St Albans.

“So they’ve already had plenty of expansion - rather than chasing yet more they should stop and focus on actually delivering their promises to control noise. No further ‘race for space’ until noise in this whole area has provably been reduced.”

Luton Airport’s latest quarterly report saw a 44 per cent drop in noise complaints from the same time last year. The airport put in additional noise restrictions in June, which include refusing any non-emergency flight diversions, refusing ad-hoc flights during the night and preventing operators from rescheduling daytime flights to nighttime. However these restrictions, which are intended to minimise disruption to residents, will only be in place until the end of September.

LLAL’s chief operations officer Robin Porter said: “Long-term Department for Transport forecasts do not support the claim being made.

“Latest forecasts from the DfT in October 2017 show the potential total passenger demand wanting to travel to and from the UK as reaching 470-535 million passengers per year (mppa) by 2050, with a mid-range position of 495 mppa, up from some 285 mppa today. They also show Luton reaching its current permitted capacity of 18 mppa by 2021.

“The Government has stressed the importance of having sufficient aviation capacity, its important role in delivering its economic agenda, and is supportive of all UK airports making best use of their existing runways.

“We have used these official forecasts of air passenger growth as the basis of our specific projections of how LTN might grow, taking into account the proposed development of a third runway at Heathrow and other airports making best use of their runways.

“We have just completed our initial consultation, and the high number of more than 800 responses received will help shape and inform the proposals. We are committed to minimising and mitigating impacts, and to bringing forward our proposals for long-term sustainable growth at London Luton in the right way.

“We plan to consult again next year on more detailed plans before preparing and submitting an application for consent by the Secretary of State for Transport.”