Threat to Luton Hoo under airport expansion scheme

A LEADING UK think tank’s recommendation to extend Luton Airport onto historic Luton Hoo should plans to expand Heathrow fail have been criticised as “incredibly arrogant” by campaigners.

Educational charity Policy Exchange, which develops and promotes policy ideas, has published a report on how to increase the UK’s airport capacity.

The study, entitled Bigger and Quieter: The right answer for aviation, states there is room to fit a four-runway hub airport in the “gap between Luton and Harpenden”.

While its preference would be to place four runways west of Heathrow, Luton would be its second choice as London’s main airport to help cope with an anticipated increase in “middle class travellers”.

However it admitted that Luton was currently not well configured to be a major international airport, as it had one short runway and planes had to taxi past the car park.

The report said: “If a four-runway Luton hub is built on the Luton Hoo site it would follow the same principles as set out for the Heathrow proposal. It would have four runways, operating as two close-spaced pairs, running broadly east-west.”

But that suggestion has been slammed by Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion (HALE).

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Flamstead resident Andrew Lambourne, co-founder of HALE, said: “Just when we thought airport expansion proposals could not get any crazier, they have.”

He said the Policy Exchange’s proposal to demolish Luton Hoo to make way for four runways came across as a belated April Fool’s joke. Andrew said it was “incredibly arrogant” to dismiss the interests of local communities.

The Policy Exchange report said that Luton had grown in an ad hoc way over time, “and the result is an operational mess.

“The airport is surrounded by Luton itself to the north and west, but has land available to the east and south.”

The “best location” to build a hub Luton Airport would be between the M1 and railway line, to the south and west of the airport, which would reduce the noise impact on Stevenage.

The existing airport could then close, and the land be redeveloped.

There are two “disadvantages” though: that site is hilly and occupied by Luton Hoo, a Grade I listed building. The report goes on: “This ultimately is a question for government: if a hub is to be built at Luton, is it better to preserve Luton Hoo, or have more noise over Stevenage and a worse road connection?”

The report said that if Heathrow did expand, there was no need for Luton to follow suit but “it may make sense for Luton to expand to become a two runway airport in a way that is consistent with becoming a four runway airport later”.

It added: “Britain will not become impoverished overnight if we fail to build more air capacity in the south east [but] failing to do so would make it harder to do business in Britain.”

The Herts Advertiser approached Luton Hoo for a response to the proposal, but the hotel refused to comment.