Campaigners claim drop in Luton Airport noise complaints is ‘distortion of facts’

Luton Airport is holding a public noise surgery in Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

Luton Airport is holding a public noise surgery in Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Fewer residents complained about noise pollution from Luton Airport in the second quarter of 2019, compared to the same time last year.

According to the airport's second quarter noise monitoring report, the number of complainants dropped by six per cent from 311 to 292.

The number of new noise complainants, who have not previously registered a complaint, fell by 25 per cent from 152 to 114 compared to the same quarter last year.

During the quarter there was a 4.5 per cent increase in the number of flights, and passenger numbers increased by 8.9 per cent to 4.8 million.

Neil Thompson, operations director at London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLA), said: "London Luton Airport has some of the most stringent noise controls measures of any major UK airport, but of course we recognise our operations still have an impact on neighbouring communities.

"We continue to work with those communities and all of our industry partners to look for potential solutions to mitigate and reduce that disturbance where possible."

Several anti-noise campaign groups have written to Alberto Martin, managing director of LLA, to express anger at what they call the "corporate contempt" being shown towards local residents affected by noise and pollution.

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These groups include LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies), HarpendenSky, STAND (St Albans Aircraft Noise Defence) and SLFFL (Stop Low Flights From Luton).

They have long argued that the introduction of the RNAV navigation system in 2015 worsened noise pollution by narrowing the flight paths, thus concentrating the noise over a smaller area. They are calling for a reduction in air traffic noise from Luton Airport before any further expansion to the airport is considered.

Neil MacArthur, of HarpendenSky, said: "The Luton Airport claim of a drop in noise complainants is again a complete distortion of the facts.

"During the summer and autumn of 2018, which is the peak period for noise complaints, Luton Airport stopped responding to complainants, and after months of no reaction started sending apology emails claiming a lack of staff.

"As a consequence, HarpendenSky members lost faith with the complaints handling process and gave up complaining as the system had lost all credibility. Yet there was no admission of the lack of resource or extended delays in responses to complaints in the airport's published monitoring reports."

The campaigners argue that the airport highlighted a drop in the numbers of people complaining, but failed to mention a reported 18 per cent rise in complaints.

Although the airport has introduced noise reduction measures, including raised altitudes, quieter aircraft and curbing ad hoc night flights, campaign groups claim these have either not been delivered or been neutralised by the introduction of additional flights.

Andrew Lambourne, of LADACAN, said: "Every single complaint about noise is a personal expression of frustration from someone whose quality of life is being degraded by an industry which pays lip service to being concerned, but takes self-serving actions to further its own ends.

"Luton Airport is a disgraceful example of financial incentivisation leading to unbalanced growth, regardless of the ability to deliver mitigation.

"For all the hype about mitigation by quieter aircraft, the facts at Luton are that the introduction of slightly quieter neo-engined aircraft is being neutralised plane-for-plane by the introduction of just as many louder-engined A321s to replace the quieter A319s - the net result is that noisiness is up year-on-year versus 2018.

"This, coupled with the increasing noise encroachment late at night and early in the morning, and the failure of any of the undertakings to increase altitude or introduce respite, is why so many people are still emailing Luton Airport with their noise complaint, date, time, name and postcode to register complaints."

The airport is hosting a drop-in noise surgery, where residents can meet with the airport's flight operations team to discuss any issues, at Batford Memorial Hall in Tallents Crescent, Batford, Harpenden from 4pm to 7pm on Wednesday, September 18.