One down…

Luton Council’s airport-owning company LALL has signed heads of terms today with the airport operators LLAOL to allow the operators to continue in post until 2031. This is the final stage in a commercial ploy whereby the Council put forward plans to expand the airport, in order to force the operators to table their own investment and expansion plans against the threat of termination of their operating concession. This move was predicted by HALE on 15 March (see Cunning Ploy).

In the press release it’s no surprise that Cllr Harris seeks to gloss the commercial shenanigans as taking account of feedback from residents: clearly this is not the case because he makes no indication of any positive changes that have been made as a result. Likewise it’s amusing to read that Glyn Jones is looking forward to ‘an ongoing relationship with the owner’ – having been forced at termination-point by that very owner to commit to massive further investment as the general economic situation in Europe wobbles, in return for a measly extra few years tacked on to the end of their contract.

What local residents are of course saying is that they have had enough of the noise and pollution which is steadily growing year-on-year. Luton is a local airport and should remain as such, while taking active steps to become a better neighbour. People want a reduction in night flights, not an increase – and the prospect of a flight every 90 seconds at peak times is unpalatable. Roads and rail are congested enough already.

Putting all Luton’s economic eggs in one basket is also not a wise move: any Council worth its salt would have spent the money it has just wasted on the futureLuToN expansion consultation by coming up with some creative and soundly-based diversification schemes to boost the local economy and deliver local jobs in a sustainable way.

The airport press release can be downloaded here: Plans to merge

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.

Jobs fair ?

The key selling-point of futureLuToN’s proposal for Luton Airport expansion is that it will create around 6,000 new jobs. This headline-grabbing consultation claim needs to be examined carefully, since – like much else – it is not substantiated.

What we know from the Annual Monitoring Reports is that in 2004, the airport supported 8,200 direct onsite and off site employees, and served 7.5 million passengers.*

We also know that in 2009, the airport supported 7,200 onsite and offsite employees, and served 9.1 million passengers.**

1.6 million extra passengers were being handled by 2009, with 1000 fewer jobs. How? Because the level of automation and DIY has increased substantially – these days most people print their own boarding passes and check in online for example. Because service industries in general are driving up productivity and profitability at the expense of jobs, and the airport is a business just like any other, seeking to maximise the profits for its owners Luton Borough Council.

LADACAN have conducted a detailed analysis based on the mathematical model used by consultants Halcrow for the East of England Plan, and conclude that the jobs total may rise to 8,600 in 2015 and then stay fairly static or even decline.

What’s worse is that LLAOL, the current airport operators, are even predicting that the futureLuToN proposals may COST jobs. They say “What is the future for cargo and corporate aviation and the many skilled jobs they support, both directly and indirectly? The Council’s plan appears to show the existing cargo and some corporate aviation aprons will be converted to passenger apron.”

And of course the more people who are encouraged to fly abroad to spend their money, the more UK jobs are exported overseas.

So, are the futureLuToN claims just a cynical manipulation of public opinion ?

* (Annual Monitoring Report AMR 2005 p54, although AMR 2009 p67 has 8,100; and AMR 2005 p1 where the 9.1 million passengers in 2005 was up 21% on 2004, so 7.52 million flew in 2004.)
** (AMR 2009, p67 and p1. NB: the jobs figures were calculated differently in 2010, adding what looks like 1,200 to the total. We have therefore used 2009 data since it can more validly be compared.)

Back to Home page

HALE launch

Over 100 people packed into Flamstead Village Hall last night to attend the official launch of the HALE campaign. The event attracted significant media attention, with BBC Look East filming the proceedings for the 22:30 news.

Andrew Lambourne, presenting the reasons behind the campaign, explained “Luton Airport is simply in the wrong place for significant expansion. It’s surrounded by the towns and villages of Hertfordshire, and modern planes can’t help overflying those communities and causing noise and pollution. Night flights are a particular problem. The local transport infrastructure is not capable of supporting double the passenger traffic to and from the airport – the M1 junction 10 is already a bottleneck and the train services to London are crowded as it is.”

Tim Moss pointed out that the jobs increase is a myth, and that this is not the only way to bring extra prosperity to the region. “LBC’s proposal will cost jobs, not grow them. There will be a small increase at Luton on the passenger side, offset by a reduction in business aviation jobs as the new passenger stands take up their space. Outbound tourism also costs UK jobs overall. We have no problem with investment in the airport, in the local infrastructure and in stimulating business through ideas such as the Century Business Park. What is completely unreasonable is to significantly increase the number of flights to and from this particular airport, given its location.”

Nigel Emms, another founder member, said “MP Mike Penning supports our campaign and is fundamentally opposed to the expansion of Luton Airport. He has written to Justine Greening to ask for the planning application to be called in. The media support we’re getting is fantastic, with both Anglia TV and BBC Look East engaged, and already other campaigns are linking in to fight with us on this key North Hertfordshire issue.”

Watch this space…

Plane tiff

Civil war has broken out between Abertis-owned Airport operator LLAOL, and Luton Borough Council which effectively owns the Airport.

LLAOL, which currently holds the concession to operate Luton Airport, has reacted furiously to the suggestions by LBC that a break clause will be triggered in 2014 to find a new operator willing to invest heavily in airport expansion, thus further swelling the coffers of Luton Borough Council.

Those coffers would be sadly depleted if the threat of a £300m compensation payment to Abertis for early termination comes to pass.

Abertis has highlighted some of the significant weaknesses in the proposals being made by LBC. For example:

  • no environmental impact assessment covering noise, air quality and pollution
  • the proposals to match Stansted and Manchester in terms of traffic are not matched by the declared plans for terminal expansion (one to watch!)
  • the apparent shift away from cargo and executive transport facilities would in fact cost jobs

The Times on 14th Feb reported sources close to Abertis saying the Council’s proposals are ”totally unrealistic”, given the airport’s location on a hill and its proximity to Heathow’s flight paths.

Exactly the points we’ve been making!