Councillors say they are ‘vehemently opposed’ to plans to increase passenger numbers at Luton Airport – and that NO conditions could make it acceptable.
Luton Rising – the owners of London Luton Airport – have applied to increase the annual number of passengers using the airport from 19m to 32m a year. The application is currently being examined by the Planning Inspectorate, as a ‘National Significant Infrastructure Project’.
On Tuesday (December 12) at a meeting of the Hertfordshire County Council, councillors made their opposition to the plan clear.
A motion backed by all political parties, pointed to the impact the expansion would have on traffic, on the environment and on noise. It called on the Planning Inspectorate to recommend that the application is refused.
And, while it accepted the need for the council to engage with the applicant, it said the council ‘remains of the opinion that there are no conditions that can be applied to the application to make it acceptable’.
Pointing to transport, environment and noise issues, executive member for sustainable economic growth Cllr Stephen Boulton said that increasing passenger numbers was ‘against the best interest’ of Hertfordshire residents.
He said he did not want there to be any doubt that the council ‘remain opposed to this proposal’. He also stressed there was a need for the council to continue to engage with the applicant ‘on this wholly unacceptable application’.
But he said it was ‘difficult, if not impossible’ to see any planning conditions that would make it ‘acceptable’.
At the meeting it had been suggested council discussions around mitigation with the applicant could have been taken to mean that the council was prepared to accept the expansion and was ‘not really against it’.
Liberal Democrat Cllr John Hale – who proposed the initial motion, which was amended by the Conservatives – said he had been assured that this was not the case. He added that the motion was a chance to say, as a council, ‘we are vehemently opposed’.
Seconding the motion, fellow Lib Dem Cllr Nigel Taylor highlighted the impact on the environment.
“We are in the middle of a climate emergency,” he said.
“It is not something that is going to go away of its own accord. It is something real and present in the current day.
“We do need transport, but we have got to invest in transport that does not destroy the planet.
“Aircraft are one of the worst polluting forms of transport there are and we must seek to reduce it and not increase it.”
Pointing to the impact the expansion would have on roads, he said: “Our transport system is not coping at the moment.
“East-west travel is a mess. And should we have more north-south traffic on the M1, it will cause more congestion across the whole county – especially in the western side that I represent.”
The motion – initially proposed by the Lib Dems and amended by the Conservatives, was unanimously backed by all voting members of the council.
Following the meeting, a statement issued on behalf of Luton Rising pointed to the ’significant’ benefits of the expansion plan to Hertfordshire residents – predicting 1,400 new jobs supported by the airport and a 75 per cent growth in GDP, from £96m to £168m in 2043.
It pointed to ‘relatively high concentration of people working in businesses at London Luton Airport living in the Hertfordshire districts south of Luton – as well as residents who use the airport.
And it suggested the commitments managing environmental impacts are ‘the most far-reaching yet put forward by any UK airport’.
“The benefits to Hertfordshire and the region from the proposed sustainable growth of our airport are significant, and we believe far outweigh negative impacts,” says the statement from Luton Rising.
“Across the three counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, London Luton Airport supported a £1.1 billion contribution to GDP and sustained 16,500 jobs in 2019. By 2043, our application forecasts an 81 per cent increase in annual GDP, reaching £2.0bn, plus 6,100 new jobs.
“In Hertfordshire alone there will be a predicted 1,400 new jobs supported by the airport, and a 75 per cent growth in GDP from £96m to £168m in 2043.
“Hertfordshire districts just to the south of Luton are home to a relatively high concentration of people working in businesses at London Luton Airport: 1,200 direct employees live in Dacorum, St Albans or North Hertfordshire, with total employment supported by the airport in those districts contributing combined wages of more than £69m in 2019.
“Use of our airport by Hertfordshire residents is also strong. Each resident of St Albans took an average of 1.9 return flights from our airport in 2019, with residents of Dacorum and North Hertfordshire also averaging more than one return flight each.
“We believe the commitments we are making to managing environmental impacts through our unique Green Controlled Growth framework are the most far-reaching yet put forward by any UK airport, and for the first time offer real surety to residents about the effects of expansion.
“We welcome the challenges that have been raised during the ongoing examination and are confident that our proposals can be consented in due course.”
- Leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts was not permitted to vote or take part in the airport debate – after declaring that his wife was a non executive director of EasyJet, which has its headquarters at Luton.
Cllr Roberts has, however, publicly opposed the plans before – pointing to issues such as noise, pressures upon infrastructure and on landscapes. He has told the LDRS that he is particularly worried about the impact night flights could have on residents’ sleep.