Local MP, Bim Afolami, and community groups ask Gove to call-in Luton expansion plans
Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has called on the government to review plans to allow for a million more passengers per year through Luton Airport, rising from 18 million to 19 million. On 2nd December, Luton Borough Council (which owns the airport and decides its planning applications) approved the airport’s expansion plans and varying the noise conditions it operates under. Now Bim Afolami has asked Communities Secretary Michael Gove, at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to “call-in” the decision. The DLUHC says it would consider requests for a call-in, taking the decision from the council, to government. This is usually when an application has wider impacts than just the local area, which Luton’s extra flights definitely would. Another reason for call-in is if an application conflicts with a national policy – climate in this case. Bim said the decision to approve the expansion “completely ignores the environmental and cross-boundary impact”. Local groups, including the Luton and District Association for Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN) and Harpenden Sky, have also written to the Minister asking for call-in.
Luton Airport: MP asks for expansion plan to be called in
The cap on passenger numbers at London Luton Airport is rising to 19 million.
An MP has called on the government to review plans to allow for a million more passengers through Luton Airport
Earlier this month, Luton Borough Council approved the airport’s plans for expansion and to vary the noise conditions it operates under.
Conservative MP Bim Afolami said he had asked Communities Secretary Michael Gove to “call-in” the decision.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said it would consider requests for a call-in.
The government has the power to “call in” planning applications that local authorities approve, and make the ultimate decision.
This usually happens in cases where the decision may have wider effects beyond the immediate locality or potentially conflict with national policy
The plans approved by the council – which owns the UK’s fifth-busiest airport – mean it would be able to handle 19 million people a year, up from 18 million.
Amendments to the current noise contours, which measure how many people are affected by noise from the airport, were also approved.
Opponents have said the airport is already failing to meet conditions and this would mean even more flights and noise.
- Airport plans for 1m more passengers approved
- Council loans airport a further £119m
- Luton Airport delays plans for second terminal
In a letter to the DLUHC, Mr Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, said the decision to approve the expansion “completely ignores the environmental and cross-boundary impact”.
“A change to contour limits and and an increase [in] passenger numbers greatly impacts a wider area than Luton Borough Council and given the extent to which local residents are ignored, the borough council should not hold the authority to approve a decision… to adjust [the airport’s] operations,” the letter said.
He added he had written the letter alongside a joint letter from local groups, including the Luton and District Association for Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN) and Harpenden Sky.
Posting a copy on his Facebook page, Mr Afolami said: “I have written to the secretary of state to request that these plans be called in by government to allow this decision to be made independently.”
In a statement, the DLUHC said it had received a number of requests to call in the plans, and that a decision on whether to do so would be announced in due course.
See more from LADACAN
Luton Council approves plans for Luton to increase from 18 to 19 mppa
In February, Luton airport submitted a planning application to Luton Borough Council (its owner) to increase the annual cap on passenger throughput from 18m to 19mppa. Also to expand the day and night noise contours by 11.3% and 15.3% respectively until 2028. Now Luton Borough Council has approved the plan to increase to 19 million – and the plans to change the noise contours, to the huge disappointment of many local groups already negatively affected by aircraft noise. The Council said this application did not affect the airport’s long term proposals to increase capacity to 32 million per year, which would be determined by government, through a DCO, not the council. The airport is owned by a company that has changed its name to Luton Rising – and that is owned by Luton Council. How well the airport will do in future years is unknown, with the impact of Covid, targets for aviation to become “carbon neutral” and growing awareness of the climate impact of air travel. Luton’s passenger numbers dropped almost 70% between 2019 and 2020 due to Covid.
Luton airport continuing to be a financial drain (maybe £550 million+) to owners Luton Council
In the last few days, the company (owned by Luton Borough Council) that owns Luton Airport, has changed its name from London Luton Airport Ltd, to “Luton Rising”. That will be its trading name. The company that operates the airport is London Luton Airport Operations. London Luton Airport Operations has obtained agreement from Luton Rising that it can retain £45 million over three years. This will support the airport’s recovery from the pandemic. The money would have been paid by the operator to Luton Rising (ie. the council) if it had not been for the impact of Covid reducing passengers and flights. Luton council usually, pre-Covid, made a good profit from the airport, but that has now been reversed. The Council in 2019 receiving a £19.1m, and £15.8m servicing debt. In September 2020 there was a £60m loan by Luton Borough Council to its airport company and it was expected that another £23 million would be paid. Then in June 2021 Luton Council loaned a further £119m to the airport. Now this is another £45 million, over three years. The airport is not looking like a great investment for the council …