'One of the biggest things people complain about' - St Albans councillors and MP oppose Luton Airport expansion

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper at a demonstration against the expansion of Luton Airport.

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper at a demonstration against the expansion of Luton Airport. - Credit: Yvonne Hall

Plans to expand London Luton Airport will be opposed by St Albans councillors and the city's MP.

The district council (SADC) has agreed to oppose proposals to double the number of passengers by 2040, including the building of a new passenger terminal and additional aircraft stands, which would see the airport’s capacity reach 32 million passengers a year.

The proposals are similar to those first put forward by London Luton Airport Ltd in 2019, with SADC arguing it would have significant impact on noise, pollution and traffic in the area.

The airport currently has the capacity for 18 million passengers a year, but the recent plans brought forward by Luton Rising could see that rise over the next 10 years, if backed by central government.

If approved, the new proposals would see the airport grow significantly, and also include an extension to the existing terminal along with new dual carriageway and parking areas.

The work would be carried out over two phases, with capacity rising to 21.5 million passengers by 2028 as a result of new aircraft stands, before the more significant work is completed by 2040.

The airport has also said the extension will provide 8,600 jobs to Luton and surrounding counties, but that isn’t enough to convince one neighbouring district council of the benefits.

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SADC has argued that much of the mitigation proposed will be out of the control of the developers and airport, while benefits will come with an environmental impact.

The council will not have a final say on whether the plans go ahead, but have been invited to share their views during the consultation period.

Councillors on the district council’s planning referrals committee on Monday backed a strong objection to the plans, with one member saying it’s noise from the airport “possibly is, outside the bins, the biggest thing people in my ward complain about”.

The airport has claimed its work on its DART rapid transport system will reduce the number of people driving to the airport, with an aim of 45 per cent of passengers travelling by public transport by 2039, as well as using on-site renewable energy generation.

It has also stated it will encourage airline operators to upgrade their fleet to quieter and more efficient aircraft, while the additional taxiways will have improve circulation to reduce noise on the ground.

However, a report prepared by officers in St Albans ahead of Monday’s meeting, claimed it’s not possible to conclude the proposals can be achieved without “significant noise and pollution impacts” or that these can be suitably controlled.

In an objection that will be sent to planners considering the expansion, it also questions whether an expansion of a southern airport advances the government’s ‘levelling up’ plans, and if it can be justified at a time of uncertainty around air travel.

The objection reads: “St Albans City and District Council has considered the consultation documentation provided by the applicant in this case, but raises strong objections in respect of the assessment of need for the expansion of the airport given the uncertainty around future demand for air travel and the long term impact on the UK economy resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Furthermore, the need is not justified in the current climate crisis and the proposed expansion of Luton Airport also needs to be questioned in view of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

“The council further raises strong objection regarding the potential for these proposals to increase aircraft noise; traffic generation and pollution to residents in the St Albans city and district area.

“The expansion of the airport comes at a time when there is considerable uncertainty as to the long term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on both the demand for air travel and also on the UK economy. The environmental impacts associated with air travel are of national and global concern and the council will be asking the Planning Inspectorate to carefully consider whether the expansion of the airport in the manner proposed is justifiable in principle in these circumstances.”

Councillors unanimously agreed with the officers’ report and recommendation, and will submit the response as part of the Luton Rising consultation.

The consultation ends on April 4, with the airport expecting to submit an application to the Secretary of State for Transport before the end of 2022. If approved, initial work could begin on the project as soon as 2025.

Meanwhile, St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has said the expansion will "wreak havoc on people’s mental and physical health”.

Ms Cooper joined a protest against the plans outside an expansion consultation event held by Luton Rising at the Jubilee Centre in St Albans on Monday.

She said “ There can be no net expansion of airport capacity if we want to get to net zero. I’ll be objecting formally to the expansion plans and will also repeat my call for noise limits to be enforced.

“I urge everyone to lodge objections to these plans.”

To object to the expansion visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/610459.