Rival plan

The current operator of Luton Airport, LLAOL, has today announced its own plans for investment and growth over the next 15 years, to rival the one put forward by its owners Luton Borough Council.

LLAOL’s proposals are based on increasing capacity from nearly 10 million passengers per year to 15-16 million over the next 10 years. To achieve this they would increase the number and frequency of flights to one every 90 seconds at peak times. Their proposals also include improvements to the terminal building and the access roads – both of which are in urgent need of attention even for the current level of flights. Interestingly they only plan to get a return on this investment over 15 years, not the 30 years of the LBC proposal.

A key negative to their plans is that though the proportion of night flights is said to reduce, the number of night flights is not specified and may increase in step with the total number of flights. Local people want a reduction in night flights and night noise.

Another major negative is the admission that the number of flights will increase by 33% – and the number of passengers by 58%, hence they confirm that there will be a further increase in aircraft size. This means a continued increase in noisiness year on year, as we know from our research.

The proposal talks airily of monitoring and action plans to do with noise, pollution and other environmental impacts. Remember what LLAOL have delivered in the past:

  • a steady increase in the noisiness of planes since 2005
  • route changes that involve speed limits which increase noise and pollution
  • overflights of local towns and villages at night
  • flight trials which divert planes over local villages with no concern for the residents

Great credentials!

Local people are concerned about four key things in relation to Luton Airport:

  • the increasing noisiness of the flights – how will this be reversed?
  • the impact on road and rail congestion – how will this be controlled ?
  • night flights – how will this nuisance be reduced year on year ?
  • pollution – what is the impact of aircraft emissions on our health ?

LLAOL has a real opportunity here to commit to being a good neighbour – not just in words, but matched by actions. That means listening to local people. Glyn Jones the MD really needs to understand what it means to be living under a “wall of sound” as flights become ever more intrusive – starting at 6 in the morning and waking people at night. HALE will continue to ensure that these issues remain firmly on the agenda.

Full details of the LLAOL Master Plan can be found on the airport website – click here
Our initial comments on this plan can be downloaded from this link: HALE on master plan

This means yet another 6-week public consultation, with the need to feed questions and comments to londonslocalairport@ltn.aero or www.london-luton.co.uk/masterplan by 25th April. We have asked LBC to ensure that each respondent to their online questionnaire is sent a copy of their input, and this will make it easier to submit the questions to LLAOL. So far LBC has yet to respond, but watch this space…

Let us know your thoughts by posting a reply below.

Better way ?

Is there a better way for Luton Borough Council to create new prosperity and bring new jobs to Luton?

The airport need not be the only key asset or the only option. Diversification is stronger than putting all the investment into one business. Spending £300m paying off Abertis to break the airport concession may not be the best way to use that money.

Land is available for the Century Business Park – that needs to be developed and could act as a public-private powerhouse for new prosperity. Investment funds could be unlocked for local businesses. New ideas could come out of the current debate.

Perhaps the huge focus on the Luton Airport expansion issue can be channelled into something positive – a chance to widen the debate and seek fresh ideas.

Can you do better than LBC – find a way to achieve regeneration and job creation for Luton, while still being a good neighbour to surrounding communities?

How could new investment stimulate the creation of prosperity for Luton but in an environmentally responsible way – reducing our carbon footprint, not increasing it?

Given the chance, how would you invest the £300m that LBC seems prepared to pay to break the current airport operating contract, in order to create sustainable jobs for Luton?

Send us your ideas using the form below and we will post the best ones for all to see.

Growing pains

Luton Airport started off as a small municipal airport in 1938, and its success developed through charter groups such as Thomson and Monarch in the 1960s and 70s. Ryanair joined up in 1986 but then left for Stansted in 1991, throwing the airport into financial loss. The arrival of easyJet in 1995 coupled with a big public-private investment brought a return to success, and passenger numbers grew substantially.

On the back of a 30-year operating concession, tens of millions of pounds have been invested in new terminal facilities, taxiways and stands; and the Parkway station was opened in 1999 to improve access. Now LBC wants to break that concession and invite even more aggressive investment and development.

BUT: is the airport actually located in a suitable position to continue to expand unchecked? Growth by definition means change – something is getting bigger, and its environment needs to be able to accommodate that increase in size.

Just take a look at the following charts, both (c) Crown copyright and copyright of LLAL. They show how the airport is surrounded by large urban areas, and how the flight tracks cannot help but pass over them:

These tracks also show that modern, larger, faster planes can no longer fly the originally designed routes. In the top chart they spill out over Stevenage and Hitchin, and in the lower chart over Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

Luton Airport, because it is surrounded by large urban areas, cannot just continue to grow. Operating an airport demands a sense of corporate responsibility and sensitivity to the environment and the people who live around it. The responsible action is to say “enough is enough – let’s focus on being a better neighbour.”

There’s plenty to be done – a carbon neutral ground operations target for example. A redesign of the routes so that aircraft do not have to fly inefficiently and be operated in a non-sustainable way. A better passenger experience all round. An effective noise abatement plan. Accurate track keeping – especially at night. Quieter aircraft – not the current mix which is noisier than in 2005.

Let’s focus on those challenges at Luton Airport, rather than on a dash for cash.

Link to a more comprehensive article on Luton Airport’s history.

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Consult or Insult ?

Most passengers want to see Luton Airport improved. Congested access roads, slow check-ins and horrendous queues in security are a nightmare at busy times. Getting to your plane can involve negotiating numerous staircases. Some of the departure “lounges” feel more like cattle herding sheds. Arriving home after a tiring journey is a nightmare when the queue from the immigration hall stretches way down the corridor.

The tables need to be turned in the current “consultation” by Luton Borough Council, which owns the airport. Rather than forcing the consultation to be about doubling the number of flights, for which in return they will improve the airport, it should be about asking people how the money generated by the airport should be reinvested.

£23m per annum is returned to the coffers of LBC each year, and used to fund amenities for Luton and to reduce council tax – even though Hertfordshire towns and villages bear the brunt of the noise, transport congestion and pollution. If the money was used to re-invest in better facilites at the airport for all users, then at least there would be payback for the majority of the airport’s neighbours, rather than a small minority.

So: drop the plans to double the flights, and instead re-invest the profits in improving the user experience, reducing the carbon footprint, and being a better neighbour.