Campaigners criticise ‘unjust’ application to relax Luton Airport noise controls

Luton Airport is seeking a temporary alleviation from a key noise planning condition. Picture: Luton

Luton Airport is seeking a temporary alleviation from a key noise planning condition. Picture: Luton Airport - Credit: Archant

Anti-noise campaigners in St Albans and Harpenden have joined forces to blast Luton Airport’s latest expansion bid as “shameful and unjust”.

LADACAN (Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), Harpenden Sky, STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies), STAND (St Albans Aircraft Noise Defence) and SLFFL (Stop Low Flights From Luton) have criticised the airport for prioritising its expansion over lessening the impact of aircraft noise.

According to campaigners, the airport has applied to its owners, Luton Borough Council, for permission to 'ignore' a key noise planning condition designed to control its overall noise footprint, claiming that "unexpectedly quick" expansion has overtaken noise mitigation.

Andrew Lambourne, speaking on behalf of LADACAN, said: "People locally are utterly fed up with the ever-growing impact of Luton aircraft noise on their lives.

"Planning conditions were set by Luton Council in December 2013 to regulate the expansion, yet the airport seems to think it can just apply for them to be set aside whenever it wishes.

"This demonstrates a fundamental contempt for the planning system, which is supposed to achieve a balance between corporate benefit and protection for people on the ground."

Campaigners argue that noise has increased over St Albans district since the introduction of the RNAV navigation system in 2015, which narrowed flight paths and concentrated noise over a smaller area.

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They have also questioned the airport's claim that an estimated One decibel (1db) increase in noise levels will not have a substantial impact on the surrounding environment.

Noise expert Paul Flatt said: "The fact that they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes by sleight of hand in this variation request speaks eloquently of their total lack of respect for the community.

"Breaching a noise contour limit by that amount means you are flying a lot more noisier planes than you are supposed to. The limit was set for a reason: they need to respect it."

Despite the concerns of campaigners, Luton Airport saw a 46 per cent drop in noise complaints in 2018, with 8,275 complaints in total compared to 15,384 in 2017.

There were 691 complainants, and 68 per cent of all complaints were made by the same 10 individuals.

Luton Airport operations director, Neil Thompson, said; "London Luton Airport already operates with some of the most stringent noise control measures of any major UK airport, which includes a limit on the number of night flights and a ban on the noisiest types of aircraft.

"We fully comply with all of these conditions, with the exception of our noise footprint measurement which was based on forecasts made in 2012, predicting a slower rate of passenger growth, along with the quicker introduction of the newest types of quieter aircraft.

"Therefore, we are seeking a temporary variation of this one condition to allow us to operate at current levels. Technical experts have estimated that there will be no more than a 1db increase in current noise levels, and, as part of our mitigation plans, we will double the funding of our noise insulation scheme.

"There is a risk, without this temporary change, that the airport's significant economic contribution would be affected and could even lead to a loss of jobs."

The temporary variation is expected to last until 2024. In the meantime, the other existing noise control measures will remain in place.

A Luton Borough Council spokesman said: "The council has received an application from the operator of London Luton Airport (LLAOL) to temporarily vary condition 10 relating to the airport's consented growth to 18 million passengers per year, approved in 2014.

"The council's role as local planning authority is entirely separate to that as shareholder of London Luton Airport Ltd.

"Each is run wholly independently of each other, with their respective functions entirely separate.

"The application will be subject to statutory consultation undertaken by the council as the local planning authority and dealt with impartially, fairly and transparently.

"A decision will be reached based on all material planning considerations and sound judgements, supported by clear planning reasons."