Local community groups and Councils are united in their opposition to further expansion at Luton Airport. Not only will it cause significant and unsustainable environmental damage through noise, emissions and pollution from aircraft and traffic, it will also overwhelm local road and rail services.
Yet because of its high-risk failure to diversify sources of income, Luton Borough Council is dependent on the Airport to an extent which, in the view of many people, makes its decision-making fundamentally flawed. And the Officers and members of the Council who are driving the Airport expansion process do so in secret in the guise of a private company, London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL). This questionable behaviour has led to ill-informed decision-making by the Council, which has been highlighted by Ernst & Young, the external auditors. Their 2018/19 report drew attention to the significant financial investment risk in the Airport developments, and the lack of any process by which Members of the Council could review the history of investment decisions when considering further expansion proposals.
Luton Airport is only half-way through a 15-year expansion project to double its capacity to 18 million passengers, and has failed to deliver the promised noise mitigations. Despite this, LLAL wants to drive another massive increase in capacity to 32 million passengers. The “justification” is so they can make even more money, though clearly it will come at the expense of quality of life in local communities. LLAL is led by Robin Porter, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Luton Borough Council. Lord Evans’ report into standards in public life, Jan 2019, stresses the need to avoid conflicts of interest.
The proposed project is on such a massive scale – adding a second terminal on the site of Wigmore Park and spreading a toxic landfill site to create a foundation – that it counts as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project which has to be decided by the National Planning Inspectorate (PINS) after submission of a formal Development Consent Order. Aviation-loving Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently overturned PINS’ rejection of development at Manston airfield, so even if PINS rejects a Luton application, the Secretary of State can just overturn its decision. We must head this DCO off at the pass.
The pre-application DCO went out to local consultation in 2019 and met very strong opposition from local people, campaign groups including LADACAN, and other local authorities. Our main concerns are that it would be fundamentally unsustainable by:
- causing 77,000 extra journeys a day on congested roads and rail services
- increasing local air quality pollution and contribution to climate change by over 50%
- adding a further 80,000 flights a year to our already noisy and crowded skies
- creating an airport far bigger than can reasonably be accommodated given its geographical context so close to so many rural communities
- adding to financial risk for Luton Borough Council due to over-dependence on a presumption of continuous aviation growth
The project was originally costed at some £2.4 billion, for which an external investor would be required. Luton Borough Council has already started work on a DART monorail between the Parkway station and the Airport, at huge cost and financial risk running to hundreds of millions of pounds. It is questionable whether this project – and that to build the New Century Park access road – should have been agreed, since they clearly facilitate the development of a proposed Terminal 2, which is part of a DCO that has not even been submitted yet and has certainly not been agreed.
Luton Council has now discovered it is virtually bankrupt due to the loss of revenue during the Covid-19 lockdown, and has taken its begging bowl to the government. Rather than saving the tens of millions of pounds it will cost to complete the DCO application, LLAL has announced it will submit during 2021. Its website is full of spin about “sustainable”, “socially conscious” “prudent” development which “learns from the DCO consultation feedback”. This is all code for cribbing environmental greenwash from the Heathrow Airport expansion proposals to dress up its application like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
LADACAN submitted a robust rebuttal to the pre-application DCO and will continue to lead the fight against further expansion at Luton Airport. See this page for the detail of our objection document: LADACAN objection to DCO