Campaigners fear democratic deficit as Luton Council decides on expansion application of the airport it owns

A hastily reconvened development control meeting at Luton Borough Council on 20th December decides on the planning application for doubling the capacity of Luton Airport from 9 to 18 million passengers / year. The timing of the meeting, just before Christmas, means many people who wanted to speak at the meeting are unable to attend, which is not democracy working well. An additional democratic problem is that the decision is being made by the Council which owns the airport. The local group, HALE, said “This decision should not be made by airport shareholders – it should be called in for independent scrutiny. It is a hugely unpopular plan: 88% of the respondents are opposed to further expansion, with only 9% in support.”  A Hertfordshire County Councillor has succeeded in getting an article 25 planning order issued which prevents Luton Council from actually granting planning permission until the Secretary of State decides whether or not to call in the application. The scale of the proposed works are such that the application counts as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, based on the extra capacity this would allow, though the airport  has tried to claim otherwise.  There are serious concerns locally about the noise impact, and therefore health impact, if the expansion is allowed. 
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DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT AS LUTON DECIDES AIRPORT EXPANSION PROPOSAL

20 December 2013  (HALE – Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion)

A hastily reconvened development control meeting at Luton Borough Council today decides on the planning application for doubling the capacity of Luton Airport from 9 million to 18 million passengers per annum. But because it is being held on the last Friday before Christmas, many people who wanted to go and speak at the meeting are unable to attend.

Cllr Amy O’Callaghan who represents Luton South Ward – one of the areas most affected by aircraft noise – has said in an email that she is away for Christmas.

This is hardly democracy at work for her constituents. And of course the decision is being made by the Council which owns the airport in any case.

Andrew Lambourne for HALE said “This decision should not be made by airport shareholders – it should be called in for independent scrutiny. It is a hugely unpopular plan: 88% of the respondents are opposed to further expansion, with only 9% in support. 75% of the public who responded to the original consultation said NO to the proposal to double the capacity of this airport.

“These figures tell us that local people do not want further expansion at Luton Airport – which is already running at twice the 5 million passenger capacity it asked for in its last planning application.

“Remember that it was Luton Council which forced the airport operators to make the application in the first place – by threatening to take away their operating concession if they did not comply. This is not democracy – it’s strong-arm tactics by a desperate Council with has no vision for creating greater economic diversity in the Luton area.”

Cllr Richard Thake of Hertfordshire County Council has succeeded in getting an article 25
planning order issued which prevents Luton Council from actually granting planning
permission until the Secretary of State decides whether or not to call in the planning
application. Campaigners agree that the scale of the proposed works are such that the
application counts as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, based on the extra
capacity this would allow.

If an airport expansion adds additional handling capability exceeding 10 million passengers per annum, the project is legally required to be referred to central government for determination. Experts have concluded that the Luton project falls into this category because the key test is capability, not predicted throughput.

“Luton Council has bought a QC opinion to support their case that this is not an NSIP, but few are convinced because, like the planning report, it has been rushed through and is very much open to question” says Lambourne.

“The expansion proposals fly in the face of national policy, which is to reduce the number of
people affected by aircraft noise, and to avoid giving rise to adverse health effects due to noise. It’s well known that aircraft noise at night is injurious to health, and yet the airport
wants to double the flights between 10pm and midnight, and between 5 and 7am. Given its
location, and the existing capacity issues on local roads and rail services, Luton Airport is
operating at a scale where the environmental impact of further expansion is likely to cause
blight rather than extra prosperity” concludes Lambourne.

HALE (Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion) is a campaign group committed to opposing plans to expand Luton Airport which will export further noise and pollution to Hertfordshire. It represents communities all around the airport.

http://www.hale.uk.net/democratic-deficit-day/
See www.hale.uk.net

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Online news articles re the planning application:

BBC online – Expansion consultation ‘flawed and misleading’
Herts Advertiser – St Albans residents urged to unite to fight expansion
Passenger Terminal Today – Luton Airport reveals results of consultation
Travel Mole – Opponents to Luton expansion claim it’s all ‘spin’

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Some recent Luton airport news:

 

Luton plans to increase passenger capacity to be heard at Luton council meeting on 20th December

December 1, 2013

Plans to increase capacity at Luton Airport will be heard at a council meeting on 20th December. The meeting had been due for 21st November, but was postponed. The 10am meeting will be open to the public to attend. The application would effectively allow an increase in passengers of 10 million, so it should be regarded as an Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and therefore referred to the Secretary of State, and not determined by the local council. The plans are not for any new runway capacity but road improvements, a new mult-storey car park, car park extensions, terminal improvements and extensions, and more taxi-ways and aircraft parking – enabling more planes and more passengers.Local campaign, HALE, says the reason for the hurry is that the the planning application expires on 27th December. As well as the NSIP issue, the other key area of disagreement is a lack of clarity relating to the noise levels governing the airport. Luton Borough Council has not justified the basis for its interpretation of the 1999 noise levels. This means that governance of the noise environment around Luton remains open to question and lack of clarity.     Click here to view full story…

 

Unresolved issues on noise and NSIP status delay Luton Airport planning application

November 25, 2013

The planning application for expansion at Luton airport remains unresolved. There was due have been a meeting of the Luton Borough Council Development Control committee to specifically debate the matter on 21st November, but this was cancelled. Two crucial issues remain unresolved. The first is whether the project counts as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (in which case it must be referred to the Secretary of State); the second is an apparent ambiguity on noise levels. Legislation is clear in defining whether an airport expansion project counts as an NSIP: if the work would deliver capability to handle more than an extra 10 million passengers/ year. It appears that the plans would indeed result in the capability to deliver 10 million/year. There is current argument about which set of noise levels in 1999 should be used as the baseline level. Luton Borough Council has postponed the planning meeting and engaged a QC to review the NSIP issue. It may also be the Commissioner for Local Government might issue a holding direction preventing LBC from granting planning permission – even though the application can still go to the committee.  Click here to view full story…

Meeting deferred, with no future date suggested.

 

Luton Airport planning application recommended for consent by Luton Borough Council for 21st November meeting (now postponed)

November 15, 2013

Luton Borough Council’s Development Control Committee will be discussing the application for expansion at Luton airport, at a special meeting on 21st November. The officer recommendation is that they approve the application, with various conditions. One of the conditions is that: “At no time shall the passenger throughput of the airport exceed 18 million passengers per annum unless express consent is obtained from the Local Planning Authority.” It also says: “Before any part of the development hereby permitted is commenced, a day to day noise control scheme shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority which sets out the proposals for ensuring that individual aircraft noise impact from the Airport’s operation is reduced as far as is practicable in the light of development to facilitate 18 mppa.” ie. a degree of wishful thinking on noise controls. Local campaigners are arguing that the expansion is likely to increase the annual number of passengers by over 10 million. That would mean the application should be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, which the Planning Act 2008 requires to be decided by the Planning Inspectorate, not the local council. http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=18375

 

New rail franchise includes requirement for more night trains to serve Luton Airport

October 13, 2013 Britain’s biggest ever rail franchise will include a requirement for more trains to serve Luton Airport Parkway station. There have been complaints for years that Luton airport does not have a good enough rail service, to too many passengers arrive by road. Documents supporting the new rail franchise, issued on September 26, stipulate there must be a minimum of two trains per hour arriving at Luton Airport Parkway between 3am and 6.59am from Blackfriars on Monday to Saturday morning, with a maximum interval of 40 minutes between consecutive arrivals. The Department of Transport says the new combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) Franchise will be the largest UK rail franchise ever let. It is anticipated the successful bids will be announced in May 2014. The Thameslink and Great Northern elements of the TSGN franchise will start in September 2014 with the Southern element being phased in by July 2015. The franchise will run for seven years. http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=17887

 

AENA adds Luton Airport to its portfolio

1 August 2013 Spain’s AENA and the infrastructure fund of AXA Private Equity are to acquire the management concession for Luton Airport from TBI for £394.4m. Luton Airport is publicly owned by Luton Borough Council but is operated, managed and developed by a private consortium, London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL). TBI, which is jointly owned by AENA (10%) and Spanish infrastructure group abertis (90%), became the majority shareholder in LLAOL in March 2001. AENA said the acquisition of Luton marked its first step in a strategy to replace those minority stakes with a portfolio of airports in which it has management control. The purchase will be financed by existing credit lines and by the sale of the minority stakes. Luton handled 9.6m passengers last year, making it both the UK’s and AENA’s fifth biggest airport.The Spanish government plans to partially privatise AENA in the coming months. For more details of the Luton deal from AENA click here and for a statement from abertis here. http://www.e-tid.com/aena-adds-luton-airport-to-its-portfolio/83658/