Luton Airport expansion approved despite passionate opposition

The expansion of Luton Airport to 19 million passengers per annum has been approved.

The expansion of Luton Airport to 19 million passengers per annum has been approved. - Credit: Luton Airport

Councillors and members of the public concerned about noise and climate change have been told that just three extra planes a day are all that Luton Airport will need to carry the million extra passengers it says are vital to the survival of its business.

The claim came during a development control meeting in which airport owners Luton Borough Council voted to agree the further expansion.

Andrew Lambourne, of LADACAN, (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) referred to 724 extra homes being brought into ‘significant adverse impact’.

“One million passengers either way isn’t going to make or break the local economy,” he explained.

“The noise consultant admits the information is confusing. We’ve identified obvious errors within it.

“There is risk with the agenda for the airport now being set by its dominant airline Whizz Air.

“This application has attracted massive opposition from local communities, with nearly 1,000 people taking the trouble to register their reasons why they don’t want their quality of life to be degraded further.”

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Around 20 objectors told the committee, over the two days, why they oppose the plans, most representing interested groups or residents organisations living nearby.

But development director for LLAOL Alejo Pérez Monsalvo said: “This will provide the best possible footing for the airport to bounce back in the long-term and help the local and national economy recover from the pandemic.

“It will safeguard and provide jobs for the local and wider economy. It will strengthen vital transport links for businesses and individuals regionally and with the rest of the world.

“And it will continue to be a cornerstone of the local and regional economy delivering benefits for residents, businesses and passengers, as well as reassuring airlines there’s space for them to grow and accommodate new routes.

“Without this Luton Airport is in danger of losing out to those London airports which do have capacity.

“The airport is one of the largest employers in the region, with more than 10,000 directly employed in 2019 and another 18,000 in the supply chain.

“Without this change London Luton Airport will be at a significant disadvantage in its recovery compared to other airports.

“At Luton passenger numbers dropped by 72 per cent from 18 million in 2019 to 5.4 million in 2020. This is precisely why we need to act now,” he added.

At the end of the meeting, some councillors asked for trees to be planted in local parks to offset the additional environmental impacts.

Andrew Lambourne described the meeting as “an evening of thuggery and deceit”, claiming there was a lack of any opportunity to question the experts hired by the council.

“Instead of properly transparent democratic discussion, we were treated to an evening of thuggery and deceit. Concerns about the environmental impacts of this expansion were simply brushed aside.

"Those who understand aviation jargon – which clearly confused councillors – were given no chance to question the QC or the experts who casually dismissed carefully researched evidence.

"And the meeting ignored genuine public concern about the way the council has incentivised the growth which broke its own planning conditions. I see little chance for democracy in local affairs where big business is involved, no respect for real sustainability, and the lack of any government policy to rein in aviation growth as part of climate protection is frankly disgraceful.”

Representatives of many local groups had made the point that the airport has plenty of room for growth without further planning permission following the reduction in passengers caused by the pandemic.

They stressed this was the chance to prove that the industry can “grow back greener” and reduce environmental impacts before seeking any further expansion, pointing to the overwhelming public opposition in which almost 1,000 people and groups opposed the expansion, compared to only 200 in favour.

They expressed concern that the move would legitimise disregard for planning controls, which the airport had broken for three years running due to what Herts county council has described as “mismanagement”.

Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, has been asked to call-in the decision for independent review.