Luton Airport's latest plans branded 'fundamentally unsustainable' by campaign groups

St Albans residents and MP Anne Main have called for a reduction in noise pollution from Luton Airpo

A plane from London Luton Airport - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Campaigners have described a new planning application submitted by London London Luton Airport’s (LLA) operators for more capacity as “fundamentally unsustainable” and completely at odds with the airport's recent sustainability plan.

The airport has submitted an application to raise its current annual passenger cap from 18 million to 19 million, and will not require any physical new construction at the airport.

LLA's chief executive Alberto Martin said: “As people start to travel again and the UK’s economic recovery begins, we want LLA to be in the best position to continue to support these things. By submitting this application now, we are preparing the airport for future success and creating reassurance for the thousands of people and businesses who rely on us.”

The move comes at a time when passenger numbers are unlikely to recover to pre-COVID levels before at least 2024, and the airport’s owners are stressing their aspiration to be the “greenest and most socially responsible” airport company.

READ MORE: Passenger numbers for Luton airport down 74 per cent on same period last year

Andrew Lambourne from LADACAN, which campaigns for a more environmentally responsible operation at Luton Airport, said: “Sustainability and carbon-efficiency are vital to meet net zero targets, and the operators have stressed their commitment to reducing emissions through airspace redesign, green fuels, more efficient engines and a switch from passengers using cars to using public transport.

"To them, sustainability appears to be just a matter of PR spin rather than meeting the Bruntland definition which is 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

RELATED STORY: Campaigners describe plan to increase Luton Airport passenger numbers as ‘morally repugnant’

“Extra capacity won’t be needed for at least the next three years, so the airport should first prove that they can be trusted to become more sustainable. So far, they have only reduced their emissions by one per cent - a gain which this plan will immediately rub out.  

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"We strongly oppose this application; sustainability means controlling, not just further increasing, environmental impacts. Luton Airport has not achieved a switch from passengers using cars to using public transport, or noise and emissions reductions by airspace redesign where planes can operate more efficiently. Until then, they should respect the planning limits they signed up to.”

Speaking for St Albans Quieter Skies (STAQS), John Hale said: “I deplore the duplicity in this application. Luton Airport has a very poor track record of broken promises to communities.

READ MORE: Proposed flight path changes at Luton Airport could cause disruption to our area, say campaigners

"Its 2017 commitment to get planes to 10,000ft by the time they pass St Albans has not materialised. Its claims that the biggest planes would sound quieter with new engines have been proven untrue by its own noise monitoring.

"They signed up to noise planning conditions in 2015 which they then knowingly broke two years later. This disrespect for communities has been described by Herts county council a breach of trust, and I endorse that description. People need to object against the duplicity and fight for an airport which becomes more sustainable in the true sense of the word.”

A spokesperson for London Luton Airport said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the UK aviation sector, wiping out more than 20 years’ of passenger growth in a matter of months. By submitting this application now, we are preparing the airport for future success and creating reassurance for the thousands of people and the many local businesses who rely on us through the supply chain.

"While we are focused on our short term survival it’s imperative that we take steps now to ensure LLA is in the best possible position to recover and play its part in the local and national recovery.

“Our application, which does not require any physical change to the airport, sets out how we will make best use of the existing site and includes a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment. Any future growth will be in line with our Responsible Business Strategy. We encourage residents, businesses and users of the airport to have their say on the plans, which are publicly available on the local authority’s planning portal.”

The full planning application is currently being validated by Luton Borough Council and is expected to appear on their planning portal.