Luton Airport expansion plans change - but passenger numbers could still almost double

Wing residents have raised concern about growth plans, says newly-elected councillor

By Sally Murrer
Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 3:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 4:01 pm

The Luton Airport expansion plan from the council's airport company has been pushed back four years and tweaked to become 'leaner greener and cleaner' with £1bn of savings.

This is a third shaved off the £3n price tag. But passenger numbers will still almost double eventually to a massive 32 million a year.

Luton Borough Council, which owns the airport through subsidiary company London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL), has now announced its change of plan following public consultations and feedback about the expansion.

London Luton Airport

"We have reviewed and carefully considered all of the feedback we received. One clear message we received is that people want us to go even further in managing our environmental impacts, including noise, air quality and climate change," said an LLAL spokesman.

The new plan will be submitted next year and will have to go to the Secretary of State for consideration. Full details have not yet been disclosed but the Luton News can reveal Terminal Two will NOT go ahead when originally planned.

Completion of the proposed development has been shifted back around four years, from reaching capacity in 2041 to 2045. And the scale of the earthworks will be "significantly reduced" without affecting the ultimate 32 million passenger aim.

LLAL had initially sought to increase capacity to 38m annual passengers by 2050, with plans due to be submitted to the government in June 2020. This capacity was later reduced to a proposed 32mppa.

The proposed capacity differs greatly from the more modest plan submitted last December by the company that actually operates the airport, London Luton Airport Operating Ltd (LLAOL).

LLAOL wants to change the airport's current capacity of 18 million passengers a year to 19 million.

With their application due to be considered by Luton Borough Council's planning committee within the next few months, LLAOL insist its target will be achieved without any changes to infrastructure.

Instead they would use larger aircraft and increase passenger numbers during non-peak times of the year.

The company is also seeking to reduce noise conditions both day and night, to reflect "a slower than anticipated" introduction by airlines of the next generation of quieter aircraft.

Technically there is no reason the two plans cannot go ahead simultaneously, with the 32mppa scheme remaining a longer term, more ambitious project.

The LLAL spokesman said: "To date we have conducted two public consultations on our proposals, to seek feedback on how we propose to deliver a second terminal and associated infrastructure to deliver growth from the airport’s current permitted capacity of 18 million passengers per annum (mppa) to 32 mppa by 2041.

"We are currently continuing to invest more time to take a fresh look at every aspect of the sustainability of running an airport. This includes developing an innovative and ground-breaking initiative to ensure that all future growth at Luton can be green growth."

He added: "Our approach will set out a path to meet our ambition to become the UK’s most sustainable as well as its number one community airport owner. It will also help us meet the challenge of responding to the challenges of supporting essential recovery from the impacts of coronavirus and building back better.

"We are an airport owner entirely focused on supporting and improving people’s lives, and driving economic and employment growth, both in Luton and neighbouring communities. We see it as vital that we continue to plan for how prudent investment in our stewardship of the airport can continue to benefit future generations.

"We remain committed to engaging with our communities and all those with an interest in the future of London Luton Airport. We will be undertaking a further period of consultation on our proposals before submitting our application to seek permission for long-term and sustainable growth of London Luton Airport.

"It is estimated that whilst it will still be a significant enterprise, the scale of the earthworks will be significantly reduced, accounting for a majority of the £1bn savings we anticipate. We are still intending to apply for a DCO next year. It will continue to seek consent for expansion to 32mppa and for a second terminal but we anticipate it will be completed at a later stage in the process."

The spokesman concluded: "To this end we don’t believe the people in Luton will necessarily regard this as ‘scaling back’ of our plans. We hope they acknowledge our commitment to significantly improving the airport’s environmental impacts and determination to work up a pioneering approach to green managed growth that will monitor, measure and use environmental impacts to support the airport’s growth rather than passenger numbers alone."

Residents in the Wing area have been expressing their reservations about the airport's expansion to local politicians.

Meanwhile newly-elected Buckinghamshire Councillor for Wing, Diana Blamires, told the LBO: "During the election campaign on the doorstep a number of people said they moved to the Wing area partly to get away from pollution so were concerned about the number of planes above from Luton. Plans for the expansion of Luton Airport would increase pollution. At a time when flying habits are changing the question of the need for Luton to expand needs looking at again."

Buckingham MP Greg Smith said: "I and a number of other MPs for the local area expressed concerns about plans for expansion of Luton Airport. The environmental damage and the noise pollution would not seem to be justified by the increased capacity at a time when people are flying less and when it is expected changing work patterns will lead to fewer flights."

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