Luton Airport expansion proposals raise concerns about noise and climate impact

The second phase of Luton Airport's planning consultation has met with mixed reactions from resident

The second phase of Luton Airport's planning consultation has met with mixed reactions from residents. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

More than 200 extra households will apparently suffer “significant noise levels” during the day and an additional 450 at night as Luton Airport expands.

The increase arises from planned changes under the airport's £64m growth to cater for up to 32 million passengers a year by 2039.

London Luton Airport says it will "continue to encourage airline operators to upgrade their fleet to newer generation aircraft, which are quieter and more efficient".

The airport, which is owned by London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL), is currently holding a series of statutory public consultation events across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire over its future plans.

This is the second such phase in the process to make the best use of the airport runway, as part of a project which includes building a second terminal.

Currently the airport has permission for 18 million passengers a year, which it is close to reaching. As a 'nationally significant infrastructure project' under the Planning Act 2008, Luton's expansion plans cannot be authorised without a development consent order (DCO) from the government. These have to undergo a public examination by the Planning Inspectorate before a final decision is made by the Secretary of State for Transport.

If the schedule runs on time, work could begin in 2022, subject to planning permission. The airport says "some adverse impacts" from its development plans would be unavoidable, but it sets out to cause the "least damage to valued wildlife habitats, amenity assets and heritage assets".

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Work has already begun on the Luton DART project to provide passenger transport from Luton Airport Parkway station to the airport.

Climate change campaigners, including the group Stop Luton Airport Expansion, have spoken to residents outside each consultation venue. One of them, Chris Hayden, said of the process: "I think this is a marketing exercise. There are lots of glossy materials.

"They'll review what's come up at these events and look to make the proposal stronger when they submit it for the DCO next year.

"At every consultation I have been to residents have mentioned the DHL Aviation plane, which flies over in the early hours of the morning.

"It has been said the passenger levels were reduced from 38 million to 32 million because of climate change considerations, but the document which reviewed the first consultation suggested the airport would have to pay millions more to improve the motorway and junction 10 to cater for a further six million passengers.

"As residents of Luton we are stakeholders in the airport, but our views are not listened to."

Jan Ingham, another campaigner, said: "I get woken at 4am by the DHL plane. DHL buy up old planes and because of that they're very noisy.

"My thing is the park, because I am very passionate about Wigmore Park and the county wildlife site with the rare orchids there.

"They say they are gifting us this park in the agricultural field next door, which will have been fertilised for years.

"The wildlife that's there in Wigmore Park is never going to live in that area. It's no new gift. It's always been there to walk on."

Meanwhile residents at the consultation events were split between the potential harm to the local area and the economic benefits if the expansion plans go ahead.

Sarah Bremlin, who lives between Luton and Harpenden, said: "At a time when we know we're heading for a complete and utter climate disaster, the idea that we want to double the footfall at Luton Airport fills me with rage.

"I know it brings jobs. I know what benefits the airport has brought to the town, but its bigger than us now. What's happening here is happening across the world and we need to wake up."

Luton resident Karen Luke said: "Lots of people have breathing problems. You put your finger on the outside of your house and its black from the pollution of the planes.

"You wipe it down and a week later it's there again. So what are we breathing in?"

However Chrissy Haine, who is also from Luton, said: "I think it's a good project overall. It will have quite an impact on Luton. There are economic benefits - even just building the roads.

"It increases jobs in the area, boosts trade and overall will bring more people into the airport."