Cunning ploy?

Suppose Luton Borough Council wanted more money from Luton Airport but the operator was not willing to stump up. With a break clause coming up in the operating contract, LBC could launch a highly adventurous prospectus to double the capacity to 18m passengers. They could then threaten to dump Abertis/LLAOL and give a new 30-year contract to another operator, with planning permission already in place.

Faced with the prospect of losing a very lucrative business, Abertis/LLAOL would be forced to respond with a plan of their own. Seeing the strength of opposition to the LBC proposals, its plan would involve slightly less growth, softened by warm fuzzy statements about being a good neighbour, just a ”local” airport really, and keeping noise and emissions under control.

With the spotlight of public and media attention on the LBC bid, Abertis/LLAOL might hope to slip in under the radar. And by playing the “only 15 million” and “local airport” tune for all it’s worth, they might hope to convice everyone that their plan was infinitely more desireable, and get it nodded through. Glyn Jones and Steve Heappey would shake hands, and then rub them in glee at prospect of all that extra money.

Certainly LBC has spent an awful lot of its taxpayers’ money on the consultation and PR exercise so far. They risk spending an awful lot more if they are to do a proper Environmental Impact Assessment, and they also risk a further £300m if they try to cancel the current concession. The logical thing for them to do now that LLAOL has been cajoled into submitting an expansion proposal is to withdraw from the field and save their money – after all, they need it.

Cynical, or what ?