Luton airport’s bid to set aside noise limits is called in by Secretary of State
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has called-in Luton Borough Council’s December decision to set aside the noise and growth limits imposed on Luton Airport until 2028. In its decision letter, the DLUHC cites concerns over climate change, policies for enhancing the natural environment, and the local development plan which was to be set aside to allow more airport growth. Campaigners have welcomed the decision as enabling the national Planning Inspectorate to review what many feel is a conflicted situation in which the Council derives significant revenue from the Airport but is also responsible for planning decisions which affect its environmental impacts on the whole local area. Andrew Lambourne, from anti-noise group LADACAN which led the calls for a call-in, said: “People living all around Luton Airport had to put up with far more noise, pollution and traffic congestion than they should have done between 2017 and 2019, and they deserve justice.”
LUTON AIRPORT’S BID TO SET ASIDE NOISE LIMITS IS CALLED IN BY SECRETARY OF STATE
Ladacan at Luton
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has called-in Luton Borough Council’s December decision to set aside the noise and growth limits imposed on Luton Airport until 2028.
The controversial planning decision led to immediate calls from local campaign groups, MPs and Councils, for the Secretary of State to intervene.
In its decision letter, the DLUHC cites concerns over climate change, policies for enhancing the natural environment, and the local development plan which was to be set aside to allow more airport growth.
Campaigners have welcomed the decision as enabling the national Planning Inspectorate to review what many feel is a conflicted situation in which the Council derives significant revenue from the Airport but is also responsible for planning decisions which affect its environmental impacts on the whole local area.
Andrew Lambourne, from anti-noise group LADACAN which led the calls for a call-in, said “This is a fantastic decision: at last, it has been recognised that decisions made by Luton Council concerning Luton Airport are potentially unsafe due to the clear conflict of interest. The Airport operator agreed to planning limits knowing they were due to last until 2028, and then promptly ignored them. The Council failed to properly monitor what was going on, and rather than enforcing the limits invited the operator to apply to have them set aside, which it then agreed to.”
“People living all around Luton Airport had to put up with far more noise, pollution and traffic congestion than they should have done between 2017 and 2019, and they deserve justice. We expect the hearings to shine some very uncomfortable light on how the Council and Luton Airport both failed to ensure the required balance between growth and mitigation, apparently focusing on maximising revenues instead. We are really grateful for the support from local MPs, Councils and other groups in helping to get this iniquitous decision called in.”
The government is to hold an inquiry into Luton Airport’s expansion plans that were approved by a council.
Luton Borough Council backed the airport’s plans for growth in December.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has cited concerns over climate change targets and policies for enhancing the natural environment among its reasons.
London Luton Airport said it was “disappointed by the decision”, but opponents welcomed the intervention.
The council, whose company Luton Rising owns the UK’s fifth busiest airport, said the government’s decision was “in line with due process”.
Luton Borough Council was told in a letter: “To consider all the relevant aspects of the proposed development, the secretary of state [Michael Gove] has decided to hold a local inquiry.”
The plans approved by the council would enable the site 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 by the authority.
Responding to the government’s decision, a council spokesman said: “The Secretary of State had already signalled his wish to consider reviewing the application so this development is in line with due process.”
Opponents of the expansion have expressed their joy at the decision to hold an inquiry.
Andrew Lambourne, from anti-noise group LADACAN, said it was a “fantastic decision”.
The “call-in” of the plans was also supported by Bim Afolami, Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, who last year said the approval decision “completely ignores the environmental and cross-boundary impact”.
The government has the power to call in planning applications that local authorities approve and make the final decision.
This usually happens in cases where the decision may have wider effects beyond the immediate locality or potentially conflict with national policy.
In a statement, London Luton Airport Operations, which runs the airport, said it respected the secretary of state’s request.
“The government understands that airports are an important enabler of wider economic growth, and for LLA to play its part it’s important we can maximise our potential,” it said.
“Our plan enables us to do that by putting the airport on the best possible footing for a long-term recovery that supports the local economy and the creation of jobs following the worst crisis our industry has ever faced.”
He added: “This plan is consistent with our commitment to achieving carbon neutrality for our own operations by 2026, and to achieve net zero emissions by 2040”.
Luton Airport consultation about expansion plans, to increase to 32 million annual passengers
Luton airport has started another public consultation (ends 4th April) on further expansion plans. It now wants to increase its annual number of passengers (from 18.2 million in 2019) to 32 million (mppa). The proposals by the airport owner Luton Rising [the new name the company that owns Luton airport has started using] involve expanding the existing terminal, building a 2nd terminal and making “best use” [ie. more use] of the existing runway. At the start of December 2021, Luton council, which conveniently owns the airport, gave it permission to increase from 18 to 19 mppa. If approved, the Phase 1 would be expansion of Terminal 1 and associated facilities to increase capacity to approximately 21.5 mppa. Phase 2 would involve construction of new Terminal 2 and associated facilities to increase airport capacity to 27 mppa. Then a later further phase would be more expansion of Terminal 2, to increase to 32 mppa. Opponents of the airport’s growth say the latest consultation is “a huge waste of public money”. The level of aircraft noise in 2019 was severe, and residents are horrified of it becoming even worse – as well as the local congestion etc. It makes no sense to encourage aviation expansion, when the UK must cut its carbon emissions, fast.
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 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.