St Albans residents urged to unite to fight Luton Airport expansion plans

Plans to expand Luton Airport to carry 30 million passengers a year

Plans to expand Luton Airport to carry 30 million passengers a year - Credit: Ben Hodson

EIGHT years after St Albans residents successfully saw off an attempt to have a second runway built at Luton Airport, locals are again being asked to fight to protect our skies.

Despite opposition from campaigners and St Albans residents who lodged thousands of complaints about plane noise in 2011, Luton – one of the UK’S largest airports – has now confirmed it is pursuing plans to double passenger numbers to 18 million a year.

The airport announced on Monday that it had lodged a planning application with its owner, Luton borough council, for permission to build a new taxiway, extend an existing one, construct a new multi-storey car park and extend aircraft parking aprons.

Public consultation on the scheme, which aims to increase annual flights by 58 per cent in the next 15 years, ends on February 18.

Campaigners have urged people to take part in the consultation as it is only six weeks long.

The planning application follows the airport’s attempt to seek the opinion of a small number of people in Luton and surrounding areas, including St Albans, on outline information about its initial hopes for expansion contained in its masterplan.

The results of those talks are included in Luton’s scheme documentation.

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It shows criticism from many quarters, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Hertfordshire which said it would be “incredible” if Luton expanded to a particular throughput by 2028, and then not thereafter.

The pressure group said it had doubts because in 2008 Luton flew over 10 million passengers despite seeking planning permission in 1998 to increase throughput to just five million.

Flamstead parish council said it was concerned about increased noise from additional flights.

Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion (HALE) accused the airport’s “spin doctors” of working overtime on the scheme to “gloss the community response data”.

In its announcement of the planning application Luton Airport claimed that 65 per cent of those responding to last year’s masterplan supported the development proposals.

But Flamstead resident Andrew Lambourne of HALE said a close look at the data painted a different picture.

He said many of the favourable responses came from the airport’s own staff, while those from members of the public showed 75 per cent opposed expansion plans.

Andrew added: “Campaign groups which represent the public’s point of view all submitted responses which were strongly opposed to expansion.”

HALE member Tim Moss asked how a 58 per cent rise in flights – 160 extra flights a day – would not increase noise.

He explained: “It simply does not add up and the truth is that the airport will put commercial expedience before public responsibility.”

Glyn Jones, managing director of Luton Airport, maintained it had listened to community feedback before lodging its planning application.

He said the expansion would create about 5,000 new jobs in Luton.