Luton Airport update

Although the Luton Airport expansion planning application was approved by Luton Borough Council last December, the matter has been referred to the Secretary of State to consider whether it should be called in for independent scrutiny. In the meantime an Article 25 direction has been issued preventing the Council from issuing planning permission pending the decision by Eric Pickles.

HALE has pointed out clear shortcomings in the Planning Conditions laid down by Luton Borough Council, including the omission of the airport operator’s own commitment to reduce the night noise violation limit from 82dB to 80dB by Jan 2015, and thereafter to reduce it to 77dB. The Planning Conditions replace this by a requirement for a plan to phase out noisier aircraft at night by an unspecified date, and set equal noise violation levels for day and night movements, thus failing to incentivise quieter night-time flights.

Luton Airport has meantime launched a consultation on the introduction of RNAV, a modern navigation technology, on one of the westerly departure routes. This system keeps aircraft on more tightly defined tracks, though track-keeping is not as reliable as hoped during windy weather and HALE has encouraged the airport to move as quickly as possible to the next-generation system, RNP1. Associated with the trials of RNAV is a welcome mandate that aircraft should not be given “short cut” headings by Air Traffic Control until they reach 4000ft or have crossed the railway between Harpenden and St Albans. This reduces wayward flights.

Details of the RNAV consultation can be found on the airport’s website.

Airport promise “broken” by Luton Council

A key noise control promise published three times in public by the operators of Luton Airport – in their revised Masterplan, Noise Fact Sheet and Planning Application – has been omitted from the planning conditions voted in by Luton Borough Council on 20th December.

Responding to public outcry about the threat of increased night noise, the airport had promised six new noise mitigations in its revised consultation documents, including a clear commitment to reduce night noise limits to 80dB by 2018. When HALE pointed out the proposed doubling of night flights between 10pm and midnight, the airport published a fact sheet which repeated the same commitment. Given the huge public NO vote to expansion plans in the consultation response, the airport brought forward the timing of this commitment to January 2015 in the draft Section 106 of its planning application.

But in the planning conditions attached to the application which was voted in by Luton Borough Council on 20th December, that vital protection has been dropped. There is a planning condition to reduce daytime noise limits, but amazingly no condition to reduce night time limits to 80dB from January 2015.

HALE believes this amounts to a clear breach of undertaking. A major commitment made repeatedly in public by the airport operator – which clearly feels able to implement it – has been dropped by the Council from the planning conditions. Either the Council is incompetent – in which case the planning decision should be called in so that it can be given more competent and independent scrutiny – or the Council is deliberately allowing the airport to set aside clear and specific commitments made in public documents upon which it based its public consultation and its planning application.

Either way, this is an absolute scandal, and HALE has written to the Council to insist that the undertaking to reduce night noise limits to 80dB in January 2015 is reflected clearly and unambiguously in the planning conditions.

Luton Airport is “in denial” over night flight plans

The PR machine at Luton Airport is now in a complete spin over night flights, according to local campaigners. The Airport is now strenuously denying the flight projections contained in its own planning application.

In a new “Fact” Sheet described as “a fully referenced narrative on noise which provides complete and transparent answers to the salient questions based on factual data compiled by aviation experts and noise technicians” Luton Airport denies that it is planning to double the number of flights between 10pm and midnight, saying recent press statements are “untrue”.

However, graphs in its own planning application, compiled by independent aviation experts and noise consultants Bickerdike Allen, clearly show the number of flights in the 10pm to midnight time slot set to rise from 17 to 35 on average – ie there WOULD be a doubling of flights in that period, as shown below with annotations:

Table N3-1

Table N3-3

Similarly, the “Fact” Sheet claims that the Airport will only be adding two additional flights between 5am and 6am on a busy summer day, whereas its planning application clearly shows that on average they plan to add SIX extra flights between 5am and 6am.

The “Fact” Sheet was issued to coincide with the handing-in to Luton Town Hall of a 1,000-signature petition signed by residents of Luton, Stevenage, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Harpenden and villages all around Luton Airport protesting against the proposed increases in night flights and the resultant reduction of “night” around Luton to just 5 hours. The petition calls for Luton Borough Council to apply planning controls to limit the number of night flights from Luton Airport to 2011 levels, and the campaign is supported by many people who live in Luton itself.

Speaking for the campaign alliance behind Thursday’s rally, Andrew Lambourne said “Luton Airport is in complete denial about its devastating plans for night flights. Their own data shows a planned increase from 17 to 35 flights on average between 10pm and midnight, yet they are saying it is untrue to call this a doubling. Well by anybody else’s arithmetic that IS a doubling of flights between 10pm and midnight – that is what the planning application says. Are they now withdrawing that aspect of their plans? They cannot have it both ways.”

The row comes at a time of increased focus nationally on expansion plans for airports all around London, and significant concerns are being raised about the impacts on public health and basic human rights. The World Health Organisation states in relation to night noise “40 to 55 dB: Adverse health effects are observed among the exposed population. Many people have to adapt their lives to cope with the noise at night. Vulnerable groups are more severely affected.” Similarly the Environmental Research and Consultancy Department of the CAA states “It is especially important to limit noise during the earlier part of the night when people are falling asleep” and “just one additional awakening per night induced by aircraft noise has an adverse effect on people’s health and wellbeing.” Yet Luton Airport is planning to move in exactly the opposite direction.

“The Airport MD claims there will be massive economic benefit from expanding Luton Airport – 5,100 more jobs, and a more vibrant local economy.” continued Andrew Lambourne. “If we cannot trust what they say about night flights, we cannot trust what they say about jobs – experts say these jobs figures are probably overstated by a factor of 5, which would be a cruel hoax on local people. Given the proposed doubling of passenger numbers and night flights, a tired workforce fighting its way along ever-more congested local roads is not going to benefit anybody’s economy.”

Fantastic demonstration in Luton !

Dozens of campaigners concerned about the proposed doubling of night flights rallied at Luton Town Hall to hand in a 1,000-signature petition calling for planning controls to limit any further increase in noise and disturbance to people’s sleep at night. The event was a huge success and shows just what people power can do.


To the chant of “What do we want? No More Night Flights! How do we get it? Planning Controls!” the protestors made the point that Luton Borough Council needs to act responsibly in order to limit the continued growth of an airport which campaigners claim is in the wrong place for any further expansion.

Night noise from aircraft has been shown by the World Health Organisation to cause serious health damage when it disturbs people’s sleep. They have issued airport noise guidelines for Europe, and recommended a noise level at which the “noise footprint” of an airport should be measured. The CAA has also recognised the damaging effects of noise at night, in a recently commissioned review of current research.

Speaking at the rally, Andrew Lambourne said “Given the fact that Luton Airport is so close to its town centre, and that its planes fly directly over other large communities when they take off and land, it’s crazy for it just to go on growing and growing with no planning controls whatever. Last time they went to planning, they were aiming at 5 million passengers – now they are double that and aiming at 18 million- which means before we know it thay will be on the way to 30 million. The Airport has set such a high night noise quote and noise cap that it could double its night flights to 16,000 per year and still be within its so-called limits. Luton Council needs to put its foot down on behalf of the citizens of Luton and surrounding towns and villages and say enough is enough by putting strict planning controls in place.”

See the brilliant coverage and video clip in “Luton Today online” at:

See BBC website coverage at:


There is still time to make a difference!

You can still submit planning objections to Luton Borough Council by emailing even though the original deadline has passed. Remember to refer to planning application 12/01400/FUL and include your name and address.

The planning team recognises that the magnitude of the project – and in particular the sheer number of documents which have been submitted and are on the planning portal – made it difficult for people to respond within the restricted period. Therefore although the LBC planning website form is no longer open, people and campaign groups may still provide their comments and objections by email.

The planning team is working through the technical objections in particular, producing a summary of the main points to present to the Planning Committe when it meets. The date for that meeting is the final deadline, and has not yet been set.

In the meantime HALE encourages everybody who has not yet submitted their objection to do so – and also to keep an eye out for news of forthcoming publicity events which will help to spread the word more sidely to local people.

NightFlights 3See our Objections pages for more guidance, and sign our petition against night flights if you have not yet done so by clicking this link:

People of Luton are in the front line

“The people of Luton are in the front line of this battle – not just because they get the planes departing over their heads, but because it’s they who need to influence Luton Borough Council to get night flight controls in place.” Peter Hunt

The people of Luton are in the front line when it comes to noise and disturbance from overflying planes: 70-80% of departures pass over South Luton because of prevailing winds, and when the wind’s in the East they get all the arrivals. And now the Airport has release details of its new RNAV1 navigation trials, it’s clear that the new technology will do nothing to ease that burden.

Because the end of the runway is so close to the town – literally just 1.3km from the nearest houses in Park Street – there is little chance for planes achieve sufficient height for the satellite-based RNAV1 to “kick in” and allow them to steer well clear of the houses. So whereas in the past they could veer left just after passing the end of the runway, now they will have to stay straight for longer – and continue to plague South Luton residences, as well as a relocated school in Cutenhoe Road.

And of course with the plans to start flying even earlier in the morning, with as many as 10 arrivals and departures in total between 5am and 6am during busy times if the proposed expansion goes ahead, the residents will certainly get an early morning wake-up call.

The threat of that wake-up call is starting to make people think, and many folk from the South Luton area have signed the HALE / LADACAN / LANAG / SOS petition against the unregulated night flights at Luton Airport ( These people are being encouraged to write to their local MP Gavin Shuker, and also to the Borough Councillors for the Wards most affected, making the point that it is undemocratic to have no control over aircraft noise at night.

Speaking for local residents, Peter Hunt who lives in South Luton said “We all recognise the value of the Airport to the economy of this town, but it is totally undemocratic for it to generate more and more noise pollution with no checks and controls whatever. The time has now come where business aspirations must be rebalanced against the rights of local people to a get some sleep at night, and that means Luton Borough Council putting in place planning controls to prevent the proposed massive increase in flights between 11pm and 7am. Capping at 2012 levels would be a good start, followed by a progressive reduction over time. Otherwise the entire area will be blighted.”

“The only way this democratic deficit will be resolved is for people to email or write to their local councillors and the local MP and urge them to put in place planning controls to limit night flights to 2012 levels. We don’t want the airport to close down – we just want it to learn how to be a good neighbour, and it’s clear that they will not do that out of the kindness of their hearts” Peter Hunt continued. “The people of Luton are in the front line of this battle – not just because they get the planes departing over their heads, but because it’s they who need to influence Luton Borough Council to get night flight controls in place.”

A meeting for Luton residents affected by night noise is being called on Wednesday 27th February 2013 – anyone wanting to come please email us at the address above and indicate how night flights affect you.

See for more night flights background and contact details.

A briefing on the RNAV1 trial can be downloaded by clicking here: RNAV1_BRIEF

Beds Against Night Noise !

A group of protestors arrived at Luton Borough Council yesterday to deliver a bed signed by people who are fed up with night noise from Luton Airport. The BANN protest was given good media coverage and made the point that it’s not only Hertfordshire which suffers noise and disturbance – plenty of residents in Bedfordshire are also woken up by late night arrivals, cargo planes and early morning departures.


One of the protestors, Chris Nickolay, said “When the Airport stops listening and just rides roughshod over local communities, we have to make our point loud and clear. The PR spin in their Master Plan claimed they would ”consult” the public, and said they were taking noise seriously by adding 6 new noise mitigations. Well now we know the truth. Those so-called mitigations would only affect a fraction of a percent of the total flights – and they plan to double night flights between 10pm and midnight and start the morning departure rush at 5am. That’s utterly unacceptable, and hundreds of local people are now demanding that there is legislation to control night flights at Luton in the same way as at other London airports. Just letting market greed cause sleep disruption to thousands of people is simply not an adequate control: we want a night noise curfew backed up by strict planning restrictions.”

The petition launched by local campaign groups calling for a significant reduction in night flights from Luton Airport can be accessed by clicking here >> Night flights


Noise mitigations “affect less than 1% of flights”

An official response by Terence O’Rourke to questions raised by the Hitchin Forum proves that the so-called noise mitigations proposed by Luton Airport are so feeble as to be almost worthless. The much-vaunted commitments to take seriously the noise concerns of local people have been exposed as hollow by the Airport’s own planning consultants.

Just look at what the Airport said in its September 2012 Master Plan – we have added emphasis to show the commitments which the Airport told us it would be making:

“10.13 The current national aviation policy is the Future of Air Transport White Paper 2003 (FATWP). In this White Paper, the government supports development at
the Airport which makes full use of its single runway on condition that the overall environmental impacts of such development will be carefully controlled and adequate mitigation provided.” (Master Plan Sep 2012)

“10.17 Regarding land use planning and management, paragraph 4.34 states that ‘planning policies and decisions should aim to avoid noise from giving rise to significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life as a result of new development, and mitigate and reduce to a minimum other adverse impacts … including through the use of conditions’. As demonstrated in section 9, we are incorporating a robust package of noise mitigation as part of the proposed development, which aligns fully with the APF.”

Now look at Terence O’Rourke’s responses to the questions raised by Hitchin Forum:

Q: How many flights would have been affected in 2011 by the Chapter 2 ban?
A: Less than 1% of night flights would have been banned in 2012.

Q: How many aircraft in 2012 exceeded the 82dB(A) night noise violation limit and would have exceeded the proposed 80bd(A) night noise violation limit?
A: In 2012, less than 1% of aircraft (3) exceeded the 82 dB(A) night time noise limit.
In 2012, less than 1% of aircraft (14) would have exceeded an 80 dB(A) night time noise limit.

Q: How many aircraft in 2012 were vectored out of the NPR swathes below 4,000ft?
A: LLAOL estimates that less than 1% of flights are currently vectored off NPR swathes between 3,000 and 4,000 ft.

Q: How many flights in 2012 would have exceeded the proposed daytime noise limits?
A: The total number and percentage of aircraft that would have exceeded each of the three proposed daytime noise limits in 2012 is summarised below. • 85 dB(A): 29 (less than 1%) • 82 dB(A): 62 (less than 1%) • 80 dB(A): 138 (less than 1%)

And in case you’re wondering, “less than 1%” is developer-speak for miniscule fractions of a percent: for example 138 aircraft per year in 2012 is about 0.1% of the total. And as a further insult to our intelligence, they describe the above as “a robust response”…

You can read the full set of questions and answers by clicking here >> Hitchin Forum Q&A

Airport plans 50% increase in night flights

Luton Airport’s expansion plans are based on projections to increase flights at night by 50%. Information in the Airport’s planning application shows that the number of takeoffs and landings between 11pm and 7am is projected to rise to 52 by 2028, compared to 34 in 2011. This is just the average figure – during the summer peak there could be as many as 80 flights each night. The data also shows that the main wave of early morning departures would start to ramp up at 5am rather than 6am.

“This is going to come as a very rude awakening to people – in more ways than one” said Tim Moss of HALE. “Just look at the rhetoric of the Master Plan, when the airport was keen to make us believe in its commitment to noise mitigation: they told us how much they wanted the airport to be the best neighbour it could be, and that they would ‘promote measures to minimise noise from aircraft operated at night’. How does that square with a proposal to increase flights at night by 50%, and to start the early morning departures at 5am? At the end of the day this expansion proposal is purely driven by commercial gain, regardless of community pain.”

HALE has also discovered that assurances from the Airport to monitor noise levels and fine airlines which exceed noise violation thresholds are almost meaningless at night, because the fines only apply to departures, and yet according to Airport annual reports 72% of flights at night are arrivals. “Arrivals often make even more noise than departures because although the engines are throttled back, the planes are that much lower” said Andrew Lambourne of HALE. “The commitment to fine night noise offenders is just ludicrous when the noisiest two thirds of night flights are actually being ignored. We urge people to respond to this planning application by demanding that Luton Borough Council forces its Airport to reduce, not increase, night flights; to monitor and fine night arrivals as well as night departures; and to install a noise monitor on the approach track to runway 08 for the purpose” he added.

See Proposals for more details and a summary of the expansion proposals, and Objections for details on how to object. Objections need to be submitted by 18th February 2013.

Graphs of the current and proposed hourly arrivals and departures are provided below, taken from the Environmental Statement Appendix H Noise Appendix N(3) accompanying the planning application. Adding up the hourly movements at night between 23:00 and 07:00, the timeframe used for the night noise contours, shows the 50% increase projected by 2028 compared to 2011. NB: they have changed the scale between the two graphs to make the lines look the same length – they are not!

Mvmts 2011

Mvmts 2028

They’re listening?

Stewart White of BBC Look East interviewed Glyn Jones, MD of Luton Airport, on 14th September 2012 and asked about the issues of aircraft noise: this is what Glyn had to say, along with HALE comments about the responses.

SW: “The number of flights between 2005 and 2010 registering 76dBA has doubled – you can understand why people don’t like it?”

GJ: “We understand very well what the concerns about noise are, which is why we are undertaking a listening exercise at the moment. We are very keen to hear the opinions of people about noise… very keen to hear what people will say.”

HALE: Glyn Jones accepts that the mix of aircraft is getting noisier over time, but all he can say is that they’re listening. Well, he has extended the invitation, so email and tell them what YOU think about aircraft noise around Luton Airport. Is it likely to reduce with 60% more flights? Certainly not – there is going to be 60% more noise on top of what we have now. But the airport can hide behind noise contours which smooth this out over a 16-hour day, masking the true picture which HALE exposed – see Noise Gate.

SW: “You can understand that the worry is that it’s going to get noisier for people who live in that area?”

GJ: “That’s why we’re putting forward six completely new measures as well as the 55 measures already approved in our Noise Action Plan in order to try to deal with this issue. Noise is a key issue and we’ll deal with noise.”

HALE: Of the 55 Action Plan measures, 44 are just monitoring. The six new measures do not contain specific, independently verifiable commitments which will provably lead to a substantial reduction in overall noise. With 60% more flights envisaged compared to 2011, fining the handful at the very noisiest end of the scale is by no means enough. Many of the measures involve “encouraging” airlines to take “voluntary” measures or ”reviewing” policies and procedures. These are not definite, measurable commitments to deliver quantifiable improvement. We propose a very simple and straightforward action: IMPLEMENT STEADILY REDUCING CAPS ON DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL NOISE, AND BAN REPEAT OFFENDERS.

SW: “What about night flights – are you going to increase that number or are you going to give an assurance that you won’t?”

GJ: “A lot of the activities within the six new measures that we’re proposing are designed to deal with that. What we are proposing is to reduce the proportion of night noise. People are often very concerned about cargo flights – the number of cargo flights only increases by 1 every 2 days at the absolute peak. We’re very conscious about night noise – it is the biggest source of irritation and we’re trying to do the best that we can about it.”

HALE: Luton Airport have said they will reduce the proportion of night flights – not the number. The overall number of flights is set to increase by 60% compared to 2011, so overall the number of night flights will increase – as Glyn eventually admits. For the MD of the airport to say “we’re trying to do the best we can about it” is effectively to say “we’re not prepared to do much about it”. Why? Because it’s profitable. Because knowing what a key issue it is for local people, he would have trumpeted any definite measure to substantially reduce night noise. HALE would say REDUCE THE NUMBER OF NIGHT FLIGHTS OR BAN THEM ALTOGETHER, AND SET MUCH STRICTER NOISE CAPS. What they are actually telling us is that night noise will increase, because there will be more flights at night – and night flights are already the noisiest in the mix.

It is vitally important for you to have your say – email and copy giving your opinion on the issue of aircraft noise.