Luton Airport expansions deemed ‘unjustified’ and ‘unmerited’ by Hertfordshire opposition groups

A plane takes off at Luton Airport. Picture: Danny Loo

A plane takes off at Luton Airport. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Anti-noise groups are encouraging proposed developments to London Luton Airport to focus on “building back better” in the next stage of oppositions against the present plans.

London Luton Airport's proposed expansions are being opposed on the basis of noise and carbon emissions.

London Luton Airport's proposed expansions are being opposed on the basis of noise and carbon emissions. - Credit: London Luton Airport

London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLA) hopes to welcome 19 million passengers per annum in the future, despite currently running at a third of capacity.

In a bid to mitigate noise and reduce the airports overall carbon emissions, campaigners are pressing for a reassessment of expansion plans, in a time where passenger levels have significantly decreased due to the pandemic. Local community groups have rejected the current proposals on the basis of them being “unjustified and unmerited”.

Andrew Lambourne, speaking for community group LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), said: “Airport growth going forward has to be more responsibly managed than in the past. The industry is innately carbon-inefficient at present due to outdated airspace design, which forces planes into holding stacks and causes Luton departures to be held low sometimes for 15-20 miles.”

After exceeding noise control limits for three successive years, Luton Airport has now signalled it wants permission to break four more of the planning conditions laid down by Luton Borough Council in 2013.

John Hale, speaking for STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies), said “The airport has to meet legally agreed noise reduction targets, and should undo its recent mistake of allowing airlines like Wizz to introduce even larger and noisier planes like the Airbus A321-neo.

“Luton Council needs to send Luton Airport a really clear signal that noise conditions are there for a purpose, which might focus some effort on growth balanced by mitigation, as the government requires.”

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HCC has now sent a robust 18-page rejection of the plans, including “very serious concerns relating to the mismanagement of the operations of LLA resulting in it failing to comply with its 2014 planning consent and the knock-on adverse implications this has had for communities”.

HCC recently launched the ‘sustainable Hertfordshire strategy 2020’, which includes the short-term ambition “clean air for all by 2030”.

Neil MacArthur, chairman of HarpendenSky, added: “This significant and laudable HCC aim supported by thousands of Hertfordshire residents is clearly threatened by Luton Airport and airport owner Luton Borough Council planning for substantial air traffic growth over the same period.”

Luton Airport currently emits c2.2million tonnes of CO2 plus another c200,000 tonnes of other greenhouse gasses. The projection is for this level of pollution to almost double with planned expansion in operation.

Cllr Derrick Ashley, executive member, growth, infrastructure, planning & the economy said: “We remain extremely concerned over the impact of an expanded Luton Airport both on residents through inadequate access and particularly on the wider environmental impact of noise and pollution. In the current climate, low cost flying is not an option for a sustainable future”.

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden added: “London Luton Airport’s plan to work around previous planning conditions to increase passenger numbers from 18 million to 19 million is poorly timed and ill-judged. I am firmly opposed”.

A spokesperson from Luton Borough Council said in response to statements by those who oppose the expansion: “The council’s airport company, London Luton Airport Limited, has recently consulted on future expansion plans for which a development consent order will be required. Whether or not to approve that order will be determined by the secretary of state on the recommendation of the planning inspectorate. It will not be decided by Luton Borough Council.”

A spokesperson for LLA said: “Our consultation provided the first opportunity for the local community, passengers and business partners to feedback on our proposals, ahead of a formal application, which will follow the relevant planning process. An environmental impact assessment is also being carried out to identify any potential effects and possible mitigations to ensure we deliver a sustainable plan for the future of the airport and its continued contribution to the local community.

“While current circumstances mean we are unlikely to see this number of passengers for several years, it’s essential we take steps now to safeguard the airport, jobs and support the region’s post COVID recovery. The changes we are proposing will not result in any visible difference to the airport, and will work entirely within existing infrastructure.”

This proposal is put forward by the airport operator and is separate from Luton Council’s more ambitious plan for 32m passengers.

For more information about Luton Airport’s expansion plans, visit Central Bedfordshire’s website.