A sad day for democracy as Luton Council approves Luton airport expansion
HALE have commented, on the hastily convened development control committee meeting on Luton airport’s expansion application, that it was a sad day for democracy. A 9-hour meeting ended by approving plans for doubling the capacity of Luton Airport from 9 million to 18 million passengers per annum. Only 5 voting members of the 11-strong development control committee were present, plus the chair. Objectors from local town and parish councils, campaign groups and private individuals voiced serious concerns about the proposals. These included number of late evening and early morning flights; reduction in quality of life due to aircraft noise; damage to health from noise and air pollution; and noise control, among others. Unfortunately none of the councillors had the courage to oppose the plans. Andrew Lambourne, from HALE, said: “Ultimately this was such a big decision that to make it with half the committee absent was simply not democratic – and is another good reason why it should be called in” he added.
A SAD DAY FOR DEMOCRACY AS LUTON APPROVES AIRPORT EXPANSION
21 December 2013 (HALE – Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion)
A 9-hour development control meeting at Luton Borough Council yesterday ended by approving plans for doubling the capacity of Luton Airport from 9 million to 18 million passengers per annum.
Only 5 voting members of the 11-strong development control committee were present, plus the chair – one member quite properly withdrew from discussion because he is a non-executive director of the company which owns the airport, and the rest sent apologies.
Cllr Amy O’Callaghan who represents Luton South Ward – the area most affected by aircraft noise – was away for pre-booked Christmas holidays.
Objectors from local town and parish councils, campaign groups and private individuals voiced serious concerns about the proposals, including:
a disproportionate number of additional flights in the late evening and early morning
back-pedalling on previous commitments by the airport to reduce noise-fine levels
the reduction in quality of life caused by 60% more planes
that the local transport infrastructure would not stand increased road/rail traffic
that the proposals make climate change and global warming worse
that increased particulates and night noise will damage health
that the airport already has a bad track record on noise control
that the local economy would be better served by diversification
Andrew Lambourne for HALE said “It takes courage for a Councillor to stand up and say to their planning advisers – ‘You need to do more to protect the quality of life of our residents.’ Sadly, none showed that kind of courage – even though we could see that they wanted to.”
“The voting process when it came was heart-rending: all the Councillors expressed their deep concern over the seriousness and difficulty of the decision they were about to take given on the one hand the need to do right by Luton, and on the other hand the need to do right by the people of Luton. In the end, Luton won – and hence lost.”
“Ultimately this was such a big decision that to make it with half the committee absent was simply not democratic – and is another good reason why it should be called in” he added.
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.
Council backs Luton airport expansion but it needs Sec of State Eric Pickles’ authorisation
December 21, 2013
Luton Airport’s expansion bid to fly over eight million more passengers a year has been given the green light by its owner, Luton borough council. It was agreed to by just six members of the council’s 11-strong development control committee at the rescheduled meeting, which ended after eight hours. The scheme includes nearly doubling passenger throughput to 18 million people a year, which could mean 45,000 extra flights per year. It involves extending terminal and car park buildings, constructing a new parallel taxiway and extending aircraft parking aprons. However the approval must now be communicated to the Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles. On November 18th Luton council received a direction, under the Town and Country Planning Management Order 2010 not to grant permission without specific authorisation from him. This direction was issued to enable him to consider whether he should direct that the application be referred to him, under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Councillors at the meeting heard objections from residents and councillors from St Albans, Harpenden, Stevenage, Luton, Hitchin and Flamstead. People are very concerned the expansion would bring an unacceptable increase in noise and air pollution. The airport is proposing 60% more planes and many very late in the evening and very early in the morning. Click here to view full story…
Still time to send in objections
HALE – the Luton opposition group – have set out here http://www.hale.uk.net/top-level-objections/ the main areas on which local people oppose the expansion plans. They are urging anyone, those affected by the airport in particular, to write to Luton borough council, and express their views. Even now that the planning application has been approved – but is still waiting for Pickles’ decision.
Write to email@example.com including your name and address and quoting planning application 12/01400/FUL.
At a packed meeting on 20th December, half the members of Luton Borough Council’s development control committee voted to accept plans to expand Luton Airport’s capacity, with throughput to be capped at 18 million passengers per year – double the number in 2011. The other half of the members sent apologies – presumably due to the haste with which the meeting had been convened just before Christmas in order to avoid the year-old planning application from timing out – or in the case of David Franks declared an interest and withdrew from the discussion and vote.
A notable absence from the committee seats was Amy O’Callaghan, Councillor for Luton South, the ward most affected by aircraft noise. This democratic deficit did not go unnoticed by members of the public from South Luton who had attended to make their voices heard.
Objectors from local town and parish councils, campaign groups and private individuals made very clear in 5-minute verbal submissions their wide-ranging concerns including:
- a disproportionate number of additional flights planned for late evening and early morning (doubling between 10pm and midnight)
- weaknesses in the proposed planning conditions which would limit the effectiveness of night flight and night noise control
- the general reduction to quality of life caused by the proposal to increase numbers of flights by 60% even if each may become marginally quieter in future
- the fact that increasing road and rail traffic would have a detrimental effect on local transport infrastructure
- concerns that the proposals are not sustainable in the context of climate change and global warming
- concerns that the proposals will damage the health of people living locally due to increased particulates from traffic aircraft plus being awoken at night
- that despite what its PR may claim, the airport already has a bad track record on noise and its Noise Action Plan is short on real measurable actions
- that the local economy would be better served by diversification rather than by continuing to put all its economic eggs in one basket
Expert advisers retained by the Council were on hand to hear these points, and HALE has followed up on a specific omission to the planning conditions in which commitments previously made by the airport to reduce night noise violation limits have been quietly dropped.
The most unfortunate aspect of the meeting was that because objectors were barred from questioning the consultant experts, and the Councillors could not reasonably be expected to have the same understanding of the technical detail as experts from either side, the farcical situation existed in which key technical points could not be properly explored in open democratic dialogue. Such is the planning system we have created.
The voting process when it came was heart-rending: all the Councillors expressed their deep concern over the seriousness and difficulty of the decision they were about to take given on the one hand the need to do right by Luton, and on the other hand the need to do right by the concerns of the people of Luton. In the end, Luton won – and hence lost.
Campaigners fear democratic deficit as Luton Council decides on expansion application of the airport it owns
December 20, 2013
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. Click here to view full story…
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/