Herts County Council to oppose plans for Luton Airport passenger expansion to 19 million

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Hertfordshire County Council is set to formally object to plans to increase passenger numbers at London Luton Airport.

Airport bosses already have permission to increase passenger numbers to 18 million a year, which they weren’t expected to reach in 2027/8.

And now they are seeking planning permission to increase numbers further – to 19 million a year.

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Hertfordshire County Council is not the authority that will determine whether or not the latest application will be approved. But they have been asked to comment as part of the ongoing consultation.

Hertfordshire County Council to oppose plans for Luton Airport passenger expansion to 19millionHertfordshire County Council to oppose plans for Luton Airport passenger expansion to 19million
Hertfordshire County Council to oppose plans for Luton Airport passenger expansion to 19million

And at a meeting of the county council’s growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy cabinet panel, on Thursday (February 4) , councillors agreed to object to the proposed increase.

Back in 2019 London Luton Airport Limited consulted on proposals to raise passenger numbers to 32million a year – although they did not go on to submit an application to do so, as had been expected.

And at the meeting executive member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy Cllr Derrick Ashley said it was clear that London Luton Airport and Luton Borough Council had ambitions to drive forward the growth of the airport.

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Cllr Sharon Taylor – who is also Labour leader of Stevenage Borough Council – spoke in support of the county council’s continuing objection.

And she stressed that Stevenage residents had supported the county council’s earlier objection to the ‘high levels of growth’ at the airport.

She said: “In Stevenage it makes people’s lives an utter misery in the summer, when they are trying to sit in their gardens and they have literally got planes coming over every few minutes – very low because we are on the landing path.

“And any more of that – or the expansion that’s predicted – would be worse, I think. So we support your objection to that.”

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Meanwhile councillors also looked at proposed changes to the way aircraft arrivals are managed around Luton – in order to separate traffic headed to Luton and nearby Stansted.

Currently aircraft heading to both airports are directed to the same ‘holds’ – circling above Royston and Sudbury.

But plans have been drawn up to separate Luton-bound and Stansted-bound aircraft, by creating a new ‘hold’ for Luton-bound aircraft above Grafham Water, west of Huntingdon.

County council officer Paul Donovan told the panel the proposal stems from a safety issue, in that there was too much interaction between Luton and Stansted air traffic in upper air space.

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But he said the creation of the new ‘hold’ would change the ‘arrival patterns’ to the airport.

And councillors have been consulted on options for those patterns – including one that would concentrate aircraft on a specific route and another that would spread the traffic slightly.

Members of the committee expressed a preference for the traffic to be spread across a wider area, to even out the impact for residents below.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Steve Jarvis said he agreed with the the recommendation that it was “better to spread a little of the pain more widely rather than have a lot of pain in a very restricted number of places”.

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And that was a view backed by fellow Lib Dem Cllr Sandy Walkington, who said: “In the current climate crisis it is absurd that there is talk of this level of expansion for Luton.

“And as a moral issue I think if there are benefits in access to a cheap airport – to hop-off for European holidays, when that happens again – morally they should accept that they may need to suffer some of the consequences in terms of aircraft noise.

“But just to dump all of the problem onto one small section or line of route seems totally wrong.”

Meanwhile Conservative Cllr Stephen Boulton stressed that the airport’s plans were looking ’10, 20, 30 years’ into the future.

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He suggested that during that time-frame there may be quieter planes and alternatives to aviation fuel.

He also pointed to other factors that may impact on the plans such as the growing numbers of people living in the South and the changing relationship with the EU.

And he said he agreed that the proposals that would spread – rather than concentrate – air traffic would be ‘the best way to go’.

An objection to the proposals for the expansion of annual passenger numbers to 19million will now be drafted and shared with members of the cabinet panel.

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A spokesperson for London Luton Airport said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the UK aviation sector, wiping out more than 20 years’ of passenger growth in a matter of months.

"By submitting this application now, we are preparing the airport for future success and creating reassurance for the thousands of people and the many local businesses who rely on us through the supply chain.

"While we are focused on our short term survival it’s imperative that we take steps now to ensure LLA is in the best possible position to recover and play its part in the local and national recovery.

“Our application, which does not require any physical change to the airport, sets out how we will make best use of the existing site and includes a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment.

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"Any future growth will be in line with our Responsible Business Strategy. We encourage residents, businesses and users of the airport to have their say on the plans, which are publically available on the local authority’s planning portal.”

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