Anti-noise campaigners urge Luton Airport to stall expansion

A Wizz Air plane takes off from Luton Airport. Picture: DANNY LOO

A Wizz Air plane takes off from Luton Airport. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Campaigners from St Albans are calling on the Government to take action after Luton Airport “stalled” in its efforts to reduce noise disturbance from aircraft.

According to campaign groups LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) and STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies), Luton Airport has halted in its plan to reduce aircraft noise. The plan, introduced in May last year, was to introduce a ‘respite route’ to send departing planes west and north of Luton, and to ensure aircraft reach 10,000 feet by the time they cross the railway line between St Albans and Harpenden.

A joint statement from both campaign groups said: “The airspace south of Luton is constantly overflown by slowly-climbing flights from Heathrow, and air traffic controllers struggle to find space for Luton departures to climb.

“Negotiations between Luton and Heathrow to release this block have come to nothing, and promises of a northerly respite route over Bedfordshire appear to have been shot down by the National Air Traffic Services. At this rate Hertfordshire will increasingly be plagued by concentrated noise from low-flying aircraft for years to come.

“The delivery of slightly quieter aircraft is agonisingly slow, and the airport is already in breach of a key noise planning condition limit. Further expansion of capacity at Luton must be firmly rejected by government as completely out of the question, and politicians need to act decisively to ensure aviation gets its house in order rather than inflicting yet more misery.

“That means an independent review of noise reduction in this area by the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, and insistence that the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport deliver a credible reworking of local airspace involving Luton, Heathrow, Northolt and Stansted so that Hertfordshire residents no longer have to put up with being dumped on by ever-increasing noise pollution.”

Campaigners are now urging Luton borough council and MPs to delay further expansion at Luton Airport until noise-reducing measures are put back in place.

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Luton Airport flight operations manager James Dontas said: ““As part of our ongoing airspace change process, we are currently working through each option available to us.

“This includes alternative routings and so called respite routes which need to be evaluated on the benefits they will bring to all communities, and avoid benefiting one community to the detriment of another. We are doing this with input and feedback from a focus group made up of local representatives.

“We share the frustration expressed by LADACAN and STAQs, but have always been very clear that there are many challenges because of the current airspace structure over the south of the UK.

“We are making the strongest possible representations for a UK-wide airspace modernisation programme as part of the government’s future Aviation Strategy.”

Meanwhile, fellow anti-noise campaign group Harpenden Sky have argued that Stansted Airport’s planned expansion renders the proposed Luton Airport expansion “totally unjustified”.

With Stansted planning to expand to accommodate 43 million passengers, Harpenden Sky issued a statement saying “there is more than enough demand for passenger growth being provided by other main airports in the south east of England”.

The campaign group has also suggested that passenger numbers will be reduced following Brexit, with fewer people migrating to the UK from Eastern Europe.

Looking at the current capacity of six major airports, and the proposed impact of new investment by 2025, Harpenden Sky foresees a significant overcapacity.

A Luton borough council spokesman said: “Harpenden Sky’s analysis is incorrect. The un-met national aviation demand is projected by the Department for Transport to reach 60 million passengers per annum by 2050, even with a third runway at Heathrow.

“The forecasts for London Luton Airport (LTN) explicitly allow for the planned expansion at Stansted that has recently been approved and, even if Gatwick is permitted to make use of its standby runway, this would not impact on the need for LTN to be able to make best use of its own runway, in line with Government policy.”