Luton Airport owners retract letter of support for Harpenden-Luton Incinerator

A sign for the Stop Harpenden-Luton Incinerator group.

A sign for the Stop Harpenden-Luton Incinerator group. - Credit: XWLCmd7Och6WRkSIQrARrLD7/ShKJmUtxbmv5/r65BYHw51sVQDnlFikNI7BNntnctnOxB1bJopsuxXA9QIwjg==

London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) has retracted a letter of support for a controversial incinerator its chief operations officer sent without the board having properly discussed it.

Chair of LLAL, Andrew Malcolm, has written to Harpenden-Luton incinerator developer Andy Brewer to withdraw the letter of support written by Robin Porter.

Cllr Malcolm’s letter reads: “The LLAL board discussed the matter on Monday, July 30 and considerable concern was expressed that a technical letter endorsing your project had been signed without full and proper discussion with the board.

“Following this meeting, and further consultation with board members, it has been agreed LLAL should immediately withdraw its letter of support for this project. I would, therefore, be obliged if you ensure the letter is not used, or quoted, in any circumstances.”

LLAL is the owner of Luton Airport and the majority shareholder in LLAL is Luton Borough Council.

The incinerator, also known as the Lea Bank Energy Park, has been proposed for New Mill End in Bedfordshire, north of Harpenden and west of Kimpton and would produce heat and energy by burning waste.

The application to build it by Mr Brewer’s company Emsrayne has sparked fierce resistance from Herts residents, who created the Stop Harpenden-Luton Incinerator group.

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The group oppose the incinerator on the basis of its potential impact on the environment, the health of those living nearby and the traffic from the heavy goods vehicles travelling to and from the plant.

Group leader Tim Armstrong-Taylor responded to Cllr Malcolm’s letter by saying: “This revelation effectively removes the ‘very special’ planning circumstances Emsrayne explained were key to their obtaining the approval to build the plant in the Green Belt at a meeting with Wheathampstead Parish Council last month.

“At the meeting they claimed they had partnership support from the airport and stated in their presentation the plant was ‘sited close to London Luton Airport as an end user of a significant proportion of all the heat and power generated’.”

“It was put across at the Wheathampstead meeting that the incinerator was relying on Emsrayne having the airport as a customer.

“Now they do not have that and they are not allowed to use the technical letter of support. I think they should withdraw the application.”

An Emsrayne spokesperson said: “The plans for Lea Bank Energy Park are entirely mischaracterised as ‘the Harpenden-Luton Incinerator’. The facility is neither in Harpenden nor Luton, nor is it simply an incinerator, that being something which burns waste with no other benefit.

“We received an earlier technical letter of support from LLAL that recognised the benefits of the Lea Bank Energy Park project to the airport. While these benefits still stand, we have since been asked by LLAL not to use this letter.”

After Mr Porter’s letter was sent, Luton Borough Council leader Hazel Simmons said the application was at odds with the council’s own energy strategy, which is based on wind and solar energy and referenced concerns about the possible environmental impact of the incinerator on Luton.

Luton Lib Dem leader David Franks, who sits on LLAL’s board, himself expressed concerns about possible pollution from the incinerator.

A spokesperson for LLAL said: “A technical letter of support was sent by our officers who were approached by the developers in relation to the potential for this proposal to power the airport and surrounding developments, making clear this was absolutely conditional on impacts to the environment and the community being kept to a minimum.

“The LLAL board has since been able to meet to discuss the proposal in more detail and consider the views of both the general public and sole shareholder Luton council, which has concerns about its potential impact.

“Following this meeting, and further consultation with board members, it has been agreed LLAL should immediately withdraw its letter of support for this project.”

Asked whether Robin Porter will face any consequences, the spokesperson said: “We do not discuss individual staffing matters, but it is unfortunate the way this has played out and lessons have been learned.”