Hertfordshire councils oppose Luton Airport expansion plans
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Harms to Chiltern chalk must be considered before work on Luton Airport’s expansion begins, Hertfordshire councils have warned.
Water quality and natural beauty fears feature in a “disagreement” pack put together by the county council, North Herts Council and Dacorum Borough Council.
At a fourth authority, St Albans City and District Council, the planning committee agreed it should oppose expansion at a meeting on Monday (24 July).
London Luton Airport, which handled 18.2 million passengers in 2019 and more than 13.3 million in 2022, has plans to accommodate 32 million passengers per annum in the future.
Planners for the Luton Borough Council-owned airport have said expansion will help to “level up areas of deprivation”, support over 6,000 new jobs in the region, and boost economic activity in the area by £1 billion.
If the Government’s Planning Inspectorate grants development consent for this major project, the Bedfordshire airport will gain a new terminal building and new taxiways to “make the most efficient use of the airport’s single runway”.
As part of the project, the expansion team will need to consider how to get rid of harmful chemicals in wastewater, such as cadmium which can cause cancer in high doses and copper which can cause irritation and sickness.
Discharges “to ground” would not intentionally contain hazardous chemicals, a report sets out, with the proposed concentrations of cadmium, chromium, copper and chlorine “unlikely to result in significant pollution of groundwater”.
But the three Hertfordshire councils have warned that “these contaminants, in high enough concentrations, could have a significant impact on the groundwater quality aspect of the chalk aquifer”.
They called on a more thorough look at water quality before designs are completed in full.
“The impact of contaminants on groundwater has been identified,” their consultants wrote.
“However, it has been recommended to evaluate it during the detailed design.
“It should be assessed at this stage.”
The authorities also accused airport planners of a “lack of consideration” for the look and feel of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Their consultants wrote: “It is considered that impacts on the AONB are not fully considered, particularly in terms of landscape effects.”
They added: “Full consideration of impacts on the AONB are required.”
‘We must make Luton aware of our problems’
In St Albans, the district’s planning committee discussed the potential for noise and air pollution.
Councillor Chris Brazier, Lib Dem councillor in Colney Heath, said: “We’ve also got the threat of Heathrow doing it, Stansted, Gatwick, and before you know it, you’ve just got aeroplanes flying over you.
“That’s great – I get on aeroplanes, I want to get on an aeroplane again.
“But we’ve got to put in our objections to say ‘we want to help you but also make you aware of our problems’.”
Councillor Brazier added: “This expansion is not only for people, they also fly out freight.
“They are night flights and they do disturb people in Redbourn and over St Albans.
“Otherwise, we’ll let it go and they’ll expand however much they want.”
Harpenden East councillor Dason Canning works at the airport so withdrew from the debate.
“I understand the objection, but there are also points which are quite important – for example, employment in the airport facilities,” he said before withdrawing.
“There are going to be quite strong links between the airport and the district.
“Employment opportunities are quite great there.
“With regards to climate change, the airport wants to become net zero by 2040 and some operators are spending vast amounts to try and become more carbon neutral, to look for alternative forms of power, and to cut back on all sorts of emissions.
“A more efficient runway would cut waiting times and help in certain ways.”
In North Herts, a district council spokesperson said the authority is “willing to engage” with the applicant and co-design “mitigations” to offset expansion harms.
The authority has lodged an “objection in principle” to the plans, which are fronted by the airport’s parent company, called Luton Rising.
North Herts Council Leader Elizabeth Dennis, who represents Hitchin Walsworth, said: “We have regular honest and frank conversations with Luton Council about the airport.
“We know the importance of Luton Rising in supporting transformative change in the borough, and against the backdrop of increasingly uncertain support from the Government for local councils the airport clearly plays a very important role.
“However, any expansion in passenger numbers must be balanced with the impact it will have on our environment and the communities around Luton.”
Councillor Dennis added she is “pleased” Luton Rising has agreed to create an independent body called Green Controlled Growth, which will “hold the airport operator to account and ensure that appropriate action is taken based on the results of monitoring”.
On its website, Luton Rising said: “We are an airport owner entirely focused on supporting and improving people’s lives, and driving economic and employment growth, both in Luton and neighbouring communities.
“We see it as vital that we continue to plan for how prudent investment in the airport and our other assets can continue to benefit future generations.”
The statement continues: “Growing the airport will also act as a catalyst for Luton to become a leading hub for green technology, research and finance.
“It will therefore play a crucial role in delivering a more sustainable, prosperous and healthier future for the people of Luton – a very important example of levelling up.”
The Planning Inspectorate will hold a meeting on Thursday 10 August to discuss how it will examine the proposals.