Luton Airport expansion application delayed as focus shifts to delivering ‘greener model’
- Credit: Archant
The application to expand Luton Airport has been delayed, as the company looks to make it the “UK’s most sustainable airport over the next 20 years”.
Campaign groups and Herts County Council have welcomed the news of the delay, which comes as the aviation industry faces uncertainty amid the coronavirus outbreak.
London Luton Airport Ltd’s new approach says it recognises the challenges of delivering a greener development model for an expanded airport in Luton, and supporting essential economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for the region and the UK.
A Development Consent Order application to support expansion of the airport from 18 to 32 million passengers per year is now expected to be submitted to the government during 2021, rather than in summer 2020 as originally outlined.
Cllr Andy Malcolm, who is chair of LLAL and also Luton Council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “We are an airport owner entirely focused on supporting and improving people’s lives, and driving economic and employment growth, both in Luton and neighbouring communities.
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“Since the second public consultation on our expansion proposals late last year, we have been listening carefully to feedback and a clear message that people want us to go even further to mitigate environmental issues, including noise, air quality and particularly climate change which has become significantly more important to people since our first consultation.
“We are also acutely aware that COVID-19 has sadly impacted on every area of people’s lives and wellbeing, and the effects on aviation have been stark.
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“We are confirming that we want to set out a plan for how London Luton can build on its position as arguably the most socially conscious airport in the UK by also becoming its most sustainable.
“This is the right thing to do to support Luton, the region and the environment. We are instructing our teams now to invest all the time they need to work up the proposals in detail.”
LLAL is currently working to support its operator and airlines with ongoing safe travel and passage through London Luton. At the same time, its shareholder Luton Council is preparing an emergency budget to deal with the loss of airport-related and other incomes, and costs experienced during the response to coronavirus.
Andrew Lambourne, speaking for the members of campaign group LADACAN said: “Thanks to strong opposition by campaign groups and local councils, LLAL had already decided to postpone its expansion application to consider the serious environmental impacts we highlighted during consultation.
“But now Luton Council is also facing a self-inflicted financial crisis due to over-reliance on airport revenue – and there is a simple reason for that. Hundreds of millions of pounds of airport fees have been allocated by the board of LLAL to capital projects such as the DART and access roads – without adequate transparency and accountability over the risks involved in these investment decisions.”
The delay in the expansion has also been welcomed by Herts County Council.
Cllr Derrick Ashley – executive member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy – said: “We have serious concerns about the environmental impact of expanding the airport, including the impact of aircraft noise on neighbouring communities. I hope that the airport will also use this time to look at how an extra 14 million passengers a year will actually get to the airport without this causing serious problems on the roads.
“This delay presents us with an opportunity for some strategic direction from the government, in the form of its forthcoming new national aviation strategy.
“That strategy will need to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions target, the delay to Heathrow’s third runway, and government’s environmental expectations of the aviation industry. I strongly believe that the growth of Luton Airport beyond its currently permitted operations should be put on hold until this strategic direction from government is in place.
“Crucially, local communities and key stakeholders need to be engaged and I look forward to the airport providing clarity on how this is going to happen.”
For more, go to futureluton.llal.org.uk.