Luton Airport expansion agreed

London Luton Airport

London Luton Airport - Credit: Archant

Skies over the St Albans district look set to become much busier and noisier after a major expansion scheme for Luton Airport was agreed to last Friday (20) despite hundreds of objections.

Luton borough council, which owns the airport, approved the bid to construct a new taxiway, extend the existing taxiway and car park buildings, and nearly double passenger throughput to 18 million a year.

However the decision was immediately criticised by anti-expansion campaigners, who labelled it as a “sad day for democracy”.

Just six members of the council’s 11-strong development control committee were present at the rescheduled meeting.

One member of the committee withdrew from discussion as he is a non-executive director of the company which owns the airport, and the remainder sent apologies, including a councillor unable to attend as she was taking a holiday over Christmas.

The meeting lasted a marathon eight hours, with over 20 people – residents and representatives of councils and campaign groups, many of whom were from St Albans and Harpenden – voicing their opposition to the scheme.

But committee chairman Cllr Stephen Lewis dismissed their concerns, saying they were speaking on behalf of neighbouring areas and that current plane noise across St Albans district “could come from aircraft flying from other airports”.

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The council’s approval must now be communicated to the Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles after Luton borough council received a direction not to grant permission without specific authorisation from him.

After the meeting Flamstead resident Andrew Lambourne, co-founder of Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion (HALE), said it was a “sad day for democracy”.

Questioning the low turnout of councillors to vote upon such a major scheme, he added: “The voting process when it came was heart rending. Ultimately this was such a big decision that to make it with half the committee absent was simply not democratic, and another good reason why it should be called-in [by Mr Pickles].”

Simon Leadbeater, an objector of Harpenden, said: “I did not expect the council to flatly reject this planning application but the lack of scrutiny and challenge by [councillors] was shocking.”