Harpenden town council asks Eric Pickles to call in Luton Airport expansion

London Luton Airport Terminal

London Luton Airport Terminal - Credit: Archant

“Significant” concerns about the recent approval of a major expansion of Luton Airport have prompted councillors in Harpenden to ask the Secretary of State to call in the scheme.

Airport owner Luton borough council controversially gave the green light to a near-doubling of passenger numbers just before Christmas.

But the Department for Communities and Local Government had previously served the council with a holding direction, so while the application could be considered, it could not be officially granted.

And now Harpenden town council has written to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, asking him to call the scheme in for consideration at a public inquiry, led by an independent planning inspector.

In a statement, the council raised several issues in support of its request, including that future noise levels from increased flights were not below those set out in Luton’s Local Plan.

Passenger throughput is to rise to 18 million a year - an average 160 extra flights every day - in the scheme given the green light by Luton.

However the town council warned that its borough counterpart had a conflict of interest as owner of the airport, and criticised the scheme for not having a traffic plan submitted with it.

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Residents in Harpenden and Wheathampstead have long voiced fears of the impact of additional motorists travelling on local roads to the airport.

The town council also pointed out “process shortcomings” as the borough council’s development control committee meeting on the scheme was called the last Friday before Christmas, with just six of its 11 councillors attending.

Chairman of the town council’s airport working party, Cllr David Williams, said: “It is imperative that the application is independently scrutinised and the only way this can be achieved is for the Secretary of State to call in the application.

“This will then provide the platform for all these shortcomings and conflicts of policy to be considered and assessed.

“In this way a balanced judgement can be made on its viability.”