Luton Airport failed to consider noise and emissions when expanding, says Ombudsman

A Ryanair plane comes in to land at Luton airport

A Ryanair plane comes in to land at Luton airport - Credit: Archant

Luton Airport’s owner - the area’s borough council - has been told it should have considered all evidence about the effect of near doubling capacity on emissions before approving the mammoth expansion.

A complaint has been made to the Local Government Ombudsman about the way in which the airport’s local authority owner granted itself permission for the extension despite projected rises in noise and carbon emissions.

In response, Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said she found that Luton borough council did not consider all available evidence about the effect on emissions, adding, “The council could and should have explained this more clearly to the decision-making committee [but] it would have made no difference to the outcome.”

The complaint against the council was brought by Simon Leadbeater, who along with 11 neighbouring councils - including Herts county and St Albans district - and hundreds of other residents had objected to the scheme.

On December 20, 2013, the council approved the expansion, which includes a new taxiway, extending the existing taxiway and car park buildings, and nearly doubling passenger throughput to 18 million a year.

In his complaint, Simon accused the council of failing to properly consider or explain increases in noise and carbon emissions.

He said many people had objected to the increase in night flights, and the impossibility of sleeping with open windows or camping nearby.

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In reply, the Ombudsman said she accepted that the airport’s noise insulation grants “available to private householders and local businesses offer no protection to wildlife”.

Simon contended that the council failed to consider that the airport’s expansion would lead to a 70 per cent increase in carbon emissions on the ground as that figure was not presented clearly.

The Ombudsman said that while the figure was not clear, councillors considering the scheme were aware that by doubling passenger numbers, emissions could increase “possibly up to 80 per cent.

“However, 80 per cent, or even 70 per cent is significantly higher than the 60 per cent increase which government guidelines at the time were recommending.

“The council says it ‘recognises (it) did not comment on the broader issues of climate change’ or take specialist advice on carbon emissions.”

Simon told the Herts Advertiser he was pleased about some of the observations made by Dr Martin, but, “My heart goes out to people living in the developing world who will be most affected by the increased emissions caused by aviation expansion in Luton and elsewhere.”