For the past 15 years, the Board of “Luton Rising” – the secretive company which owns Luton Airport on behalf of the Council – has tried by all means possible to achieve massive growth of the Airport. This apparent obsession has not changed despite the growing threat of climate change, or direct instruction from government to reduce Luton’s financial dependency on the Airport. Rather than developing a strategic plan to diversify and therefore strengthen the local economy, they simply beat the Airport drum ever more desperately: and Luton is on the verge of bankruptcy partly as a result.
The latest plan is a massive increase from 18 million to 32 million passengers a year, involving paving over the nature reserve at Wigmore Park to build a second terminal, causing many millions more vehicles to fill our already crowded country roads, and to increase yet again the noise which in 2019 became intolerable and breached planning limits.
Is this the right thing to do when the Committee for Climate Change has made it clear that aviation expansion must be reigned in to hit net zero targets? Is it sensible that the only “powerhouse” of this sub-regional economy is a fossil-fuelled industry where the big profits are made by the Spanish-owned airport operator?
Local community groups all around the are, and councils in Hertfordshire, are united in their opposition to further expansion at Luton Airport because it causes significant and unsustainable environmental damage through noise, emissions and pollution from aircraft and surface traffic, and overwhelms local road and rail services.
Ernst & Young, the Council’s external auditors, drew attention in their 2018/19 report 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. They have more recently threatened to resign. PricewaterhouseCoopers – auditors for Luton Rising – did resign over “significant disagreement” including the inflated valuation of the Airport being proposed by Luton Rising, and its investment of £300m in the DART rail link which the auditors valued at just £180m – a paper loss of £120m. Are these world-leading audit companies wrong?
The further expansion proposal is so massive that it would be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project decided by the National Planning Inspectorate (PINS) after submission of a Development Consent Order. The proposals have 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 40,000 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
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
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