Luton Airport owner (part of Luton Council) delays DCO plans for expansion to 32mppa
Earlier this year, Luton Rising – a Luton Council subsidiary that owns the airport – consulted on revised expansion proposals that would eventually increase the airport’s annual passenger capacity from 18 million to 32 million. Luton Rising has now delayed the submission of its £1.5bn expansion plans. The necessary Development Consent Order (DCO) application for a second airport terminal was due to be submitted by the end of 2022. But Construction News has learned that the application has been pushed back to 2023. The plans consist of two phases, with the first expanding the existing terminal to 21.5 million annual passengers, and the second building a new terminal. This second phase is itself split into two parts, with the new terminal boosting capacity to 27M per year and further expansion later increasing it to 32M. It is thought that, if approved, construction would not begin until at least 2025. Consultation documents state that delivering the project would take up to 20 years, “during which there will be periods of construction activity and others with no activity”. A previous statutory consultation was held in 2019, but the airport struggled financially due to Covid, and forced it to borrow several hundred £million from Luton council.
Luton Airport owner delays £1.5bn expansion plans
10 NOV, 2022
By JONATHAN KNOTT (New Civil Engineer)
The owner of Luton Airport has delayed the submission of its £1.5bn expansion plans.
A development consent order (DCO) application for a second terminal at the airport was due to be submitted by the end of this year, however NCE sister title Construction News has learned that the application has been pushed back to 2023.
Earlier this year, Luton Rising – a Luton Council subsidiary that owns the airport – consulted on revised expansion proposals that would eventually increase the airport’s annual passenger capacity from 18M to 32M.
The consultation ended in April. An application to government for a DCO was due to follow this year, but this has now been pushed back to 2023, the chief executive of Luton Rising has said.
The new plans consist of two phases, with the first expanding the existing terminal to 21.5M passengers per year and the second building a new terminal. This second phase is itself split into two parts, with the new terminal boosting capacity to 27M per year and further expansion later increasing it to 32M.
Construction would not begin until at least 2025. Consultation documents state that delivering the project would take up to 20 years, “during which there will be periods of construction activity and others with no activity”.
New consultation documents add that the airport reviewed its earlier plans “to take into account the impacts of Covid-19 and other factors such as Brexit and the ongoing effects of climate change”, as well as responses to the previous consultation.
Separately, last year Luton Council approved plans to increase the airport’s capacity from 18M to 19M per year, submitted by the company that operates it, London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL). These plans are currently subject to a public inquiry after being called in by the communities secretary.
The inquiry into LLAOL’s plans was “entirely separate” to Luton Rising’s proposals and would not affect them, a Luton Rising spokesperson told CN.
Luton Rising chief executive Graham Olver said: “We are continuing to evolve our scheme in response to feedback received during statutory consultation earlier this year, in particular our groundbreaking proposals to ensure the green controlled growth of our airport, which will support the unique social impact benefits and economic growth that will be delivered.
“We are also ensuring that our application responds appropriately to updated government guidance and better reflects the current economic situation.
“The project continues to demonstrate long-term projected construction-cost savings approaching £1bn against earlier estimates, and we will be submitting our application for development consent during 2023.”
The company has put an increased emphasis on sustainability in its latest plans. This includes an approach called “green controlled growth” that will introduce legally binding limits for the airport’s impacts in terms of noise, carbon, air quality and surface access.
The new Luton Rising consultation does not state a cost for its expansion plans. The previous plans were costed at £2.4bn, but last year the company’s chief executive told NCE sister title Local Government Chronicle that revisions could save “the best part of £1bn” by reducing earthworks.
Luton Airport dismisses climate change as factor in planning inquiry
A public inquiry has begun into Luton Airport’s expansion plans. Luton Borough Council, whose company Luton Rising owns the airport, approved the growth plans in December. The separate private company that runs the airport, London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAOL), applied to increase passengers from 18 million to 19 million per year and to amend the noise contours. The government said an inquiry should review the main aspects of development. Three planning inspectors are expected to participate during the inquiry, Richard Clegg, Sheila Holden and Geoff Underwood. The agenda includes air quality, climate change, the impact of noise, sustainability, socio-economic implications, the influence of other considerations on the overall planning balance, and whether it would be consistent with the local development plan and other policies. It is unsatisfactory for the owner of the airport to also be its planning authority. Local campaign group, LADACAN, expect the hearings to shine some uncomfortable light how the focus has been just on maximising revenues, while ignoring other vital considerations, such as climate and environmental issues.
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.