Hertfordshire MP calls for inquiry on Luton Airport's expansion to be paused over framework concerns

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“It’s clear Luton’s expansion would be contrary to expert advice and in direct conflict with the government’s legal obligations to reach net zero”

A plea to pause an inquiry into London Luton Airport expansion has been delivered by deputy Liberal Democrat leader and St Albans MP Daisy Cooper.

Luton Borough Council’s airport company, London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) submitted its development consent order (DCO) plans to increase passenger capacity to 32m over several years.

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This would involve expanding the airport terminal and building a second one, as well as creating the New Century Park business development.

Luton AirportLuton Airport
Luton Airport

Speaking at a Planning Inspectorate open hearing, Ms Cooper explained: “The 2019 advice from the climate change committee to the government is crystal clear.

“Aviation is likely to be the single largest producer of carbon emissions by 2050. Even if aviation capacity remains static, fuel efficiency measures alone could only result in a 20 per cent reduction in emissions at best.

“Its recommendation is there should be no net expansion overall to meet the legally binding 2050 net zero target.

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“If capacity at one airport is increased, equal or greater reductions are needed at others. In the London region, Heathrow plans a 60m passenger increase, Gatwick 30m and Stansted 10m.

“It’s clear Luton’s expansion would be contrary to expert advice and in direct conflict with the government’s legal obligations to reach net zero.

“This year, the committee warned: ‘No airport expansion should proceed until a UK-wide capacity management framework exists to annually assess and if required control greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide effects’.

“After that framework is developed, there should be no net airport expansion unless the carbon intensity of aviation is outperforming the government’s emissions reduction pathway and can accommodate the extra demand.

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“Any future proposals to expand at Luton should be measured against the government’s latest emissions pathway.”

On economic impact and job creation, a New Economics Foundation report published in July suggested ‘there’s no strong evidence that increase in UK air travel results in any rise in productivity or GDP growth’,” she said.

“Pay in that sector saw the second largest pre-pandemic decline of any in the UK. It’s clear any savings made are going into shareholders’ pockets and not into employees’ pay packets.

“Any further expansion of the airport would have a huge impact for my constituents in St Albans and in neighbouring villages, including Sandridge, Redbourn, Wheathampstead, Harpenden, Flamstead, Markyate and other parts of Hertfordshire.

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“The expansion would almost double capacity with a significant increase in overall aircraft movement and a similar impact on already congested roads across the region.

“Changes to air space management locally mean that aircraft are more concentrated over communities most blighted by noise.

“The health and wellbeing of hundreds of people living underneath those flightpaths would be even more negatively impacted, with no discernible improvement seen since the promised introduction of newer aircraft.

“The airport has repeatedly breached its legal noise and passenger limits since 2019 with impunity. At no point has it been required to take remedial action,” she added.

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“As a bare minimum I formally request the inspectors pause this inquiry. And at best, for the sake of our climate, local environment and people’s health, I implore you to refuse this application outright.”