Luton Airport expansion to go ahead

Luton Airport operators LLAOL have announced that Eric Pickles, Secretary of State, has decided not to call in the expansion plans, meaning that Luton Borough Council can now grant planning permission for works designed to achieve a doubling of annual passenger capacity.

The government is clearly hell-bent on expanding airport capacity in the South East, come what may. Regardless of the fact that 70% of the public who responded to the consultation over Luton Airport Expansion said NO, ignoring the fact that aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases, and despite the application technically constituting a nationally significant infrastructure project, Eric Pickles has failed to call this application in for proper scrutiny.

The airport’s announcement this morning mentions everything except the key local issues: the effect of an extra 9 million passengers per year on the already crowded transport infrastructure, and the effect of noise from 60% more flights. The throwaway comment at the end about being a good neighbour is meaningless unless the airport takes seriously the concerns about noise and puts in place measures to make a difference. That means a Noise Action Plan which has some real bite, and Planning Conditions which control noise over local communities.

Luton Hooey!

Just when we thought airport expansion proposals could not get any crazier, they have. The Policy Exchange think tank has put forward a proposal to demolish Luton Hoo and build a 4-runway airport there, just up the road from Harpenden. London’s Heathrow and Stansted airports would then close, transferring their flights to the new hub airport along with substantially extra services to the new locations in China and the developing world. Passengers would fly in from around the UK and Europe to transfer on to long-haul flights to the new economies, and business people from China would fly in to Luton and set up their headquarters there.

Quite apart from the almost incredible arrogance of the proposals in dismissing at a stroke the interests of the local communities, they miss such obvious practical issues that it’s clear they’ve been produced by a lot of web-surfing rather than an actual first-hand appreciation of the area being discussed and its existing infrastructure. One could almost imagine the date was 1st April not 5th October.

Hills: For a start, the whole area around Luton Airport is very hilly, and while the report acknowledges this it seems to suggest it would be reasonably achievable to level it all off so that new runways could be planted.

Noise: The author blithely asserts that the noise nuisance from each aircraft will be reduced, massively. This assertion is utterly without foundation, and in fact because they are talking long-haul, the larger heavier planes will be inherently noisier and will take longer to climb to altitude and so the noise will last longer as well.

Trains: The suggestion is made that there would be fast trains every 5 minutes to London on the existing 4 tracks. Brilliant – that means that the current semi-fast services on which Harpenden and St Albans rely would be just swept away ?

Flight paths: The planes taking off from Luton Hooey Airport would normally be facing in the wrong direction to get to China – the prevailing wind is from the west, so they take off to the west and would then need to turn to head east – and because they’d be starting from a more southerly position, their tracks would go directly over Hemel, St Albans and Welwyn. on the way out. Fantastic proposal we don’t think!

Oil: The oil that fuels planes is a finite resource. Before long – if not already – the good people of planet Earth will have passed the peak of oil production capability and then the supplies will start to run down. So arguing for more and more increases in airport capacity rather flies in the face of the economic logic which says that dwindling resources start to get more expensive, and then the demand reduces.

Carbon: The government’s own website says that aircraft contributed 6.4% of the UK carbon footprint in 2006, and this will rise to 10% by 2020 if nothing is done to reverse the trend. Climate change is not going to be slowed down by furthering the myth that nobody can do business unless it involves flying.

Roads: Are the M1, M25 and the A1 quiet roads with very little traffic and no tendency to snarl up? Er, no. So how would they be affected by adding the combined traffic from Heathrow, Stansted and Luton airports plus further expansion? Er, very badly.

Just in case anyone is crazy enough to take these proposals seriously, we’d all better write yet again to our long-suffering local MPs Peter Lilley, Ann Maine, Mike Penning, Stephen McPartland and Grant Shapps – see Contacts Page for details.

You can find the think tank document at this link: click here

Expansion plans

The revised expansion plan for Luton Airport has been issued today 3rd Sep and can be downloaded from the airport website by clicking the link at the end of this article.

Compared to 2011 the main measures include:

  • More planes – a 58% increase in the number of flights
  • More often – frequency up 17% to one every 90 seconds at peak
  • More intrusive – the peak time at 06:00-08:30 will become longer
  • More traffic – an 87% increase in passenger capacity from 9.6m to 18m
  • More emissions – the airport ignores emissions once a plane is airborne
  • More impact – a new 4-storey carpark is to be built on the top of the hill

Mitigation Plans and Action Plans abound, but these involve monitoring rather than aggressively tackling the issues which affect local communities even with the current level of flights and passengers: noise, pollution, night flights and road bottlenecks.

The Environmental Impact statement has not yet been published, so the detail on what these proposals will mean to the local environment in terms of air quality and climate, water quality and usage, landscape and visual impact, noise and vibration, traffic and transportation is still not clear.

HALE is working closely with other campaign groups as well as local councils, however everyone can play a part by ensuring that their views are sent to the airport and to local councillors, and making other people aware of how to feed back their opinions.

Glyn Jones, MD of Luton Airport Operators, has claimed that their previous plans are “broadly supported” by 2/3 of respondents. Since many of the proposals (to improve the terminal facilities, speed up security and baggage collection and make the drop-off easier) are generally welcome, there is a risk that “support” could be misinterpreted. Local people need to make it very clear that the surrounding community experience counts just as much as the passenger experience.

A 6-week public consultation starts today, and there are some local meetings planned – see Public Exhibitions for a timetable.

Luton Airport website link describing plans with download available: click here

Comments can be emailed to:

Double whammy

Luton Airport owners and operators have kissed and made up, with a deal now signed which extends the current operating franchise to 2031 subject to an application to increase airport capacity to from 10 million to 18 million passengers per year. This represents a combination of the two separate plans discussed earlier in the year.

In almost doubling the passenger throughput, Luton Airport would add something like 100 flights a day, and would pack many extra flights into the already busy 6am-9am morning peak, delivering a plane every 90 seconds to fly over local residents.

What’s farcical is that they try to claim this is “sustainable growth” when clearly it is the exact opposite. The Directgov website has some very relevant things to say about air travel and its impact on the environment:

Air travel is a growing contributor to climate change and can have an impact on local traffic emissions and noise. You can help reduce your impact on the environment by choosing to travel by air less. In 2006, air travel accounted for 6.4 per cent of the UK’s emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas causing climate change. Forecasts suggest that this could grow. If no action is taken, carbon dioxide emissions from aviation could make up around 10 per cent of the UK’s total CO2 emissions by 2020. 

  • consider video or teleconferencing, instead of flying to business meetings
  • think about taking a holiday within the UK
  • taking one longer holiday will have a lower impact than going on several short trips if you are flying each time

When making journeys in the UK, and even internationally, there is often the option of getting there without flying.

Click on Directgov for the complete set of guidelines.

The point about taking holidays in the UK is very important, since it boosts the UK economy if we spend our money here rather than overseas: in 2011 the balance of payments deficit due to more people going overseas for holidays than coming to the UK was £13billion. So we can all help create jobs in Britain by flying less, not more.

Public consultation on the plans starts on September 3rd and it is essential for eveybody who cares about this issue to contact their local MP and councillors to express their views, as well as responding to the consultation questionnaire when it is published.

Angry of Luton

HALE has been given permission to publish this open letter from a South Luton resident to Robin Harris of Luton Borough Council and Mark Turner of LLAL. It makes grim reading:

Hello Mr Harris and colleagues,

I write to express my dissatisfaction at both yours and Neil Thompson’s absence last Saturday morning from the Breachwood Green HALE meeting.

Despite their invitation, I understand you were not there as the meeting took place outside Luton. It was a missed opportunity for you to put forward your side re the expansion of Luton Airport. As someone who works for the tax payers of Luton – I would like you to have been there. I was and so were other people from Luton. This type of planned expansion negates any county boundaries in my opinion.

The residents of this part of Luton are not all in favour of the expansion despite the spin in the media, and the line toed by the council. On that note, trying to sell it to us by saying what a great neighbour the Airport is – reducing our council tax, creating thousands of jobs (which I don’t believe), and bringing our economy up, is not fair.

The Airport is not a good neighbour. Swathe changes, unbearable noise, night flights, air pollution – these things cannot be mitigated against. Any expansion would see this become worse.

I would like my Council tax to go up please. I have no problem with my money being spent on good causes to bring this town up to the levels of some of our Hertfordshire neighbours.

There may well be several hundred new jobs created at the Airport. How many top jobs would go to the people of Luton? None. They would be offered the menial jobs. All the management people would come from outside; wouldn’t live here, wouldn’t want to live here what with the unfair press our town gets and the fact that it is kept in a deliberate perceived state of deprivation. They wouldn’t want to shop here – there are so very few decent shops in Luton.

People flying out are not going to pop into town to shop. The only view they would have of Luton is as they fly off and back again. Exactly how is that improving our economy?

I appreciate a planning application has yet to be submitted and at that point we are going to be asked our opinions – what a pity you chose not to come along to the meeting and allay fears we all have about the proposals. And I include our neighbours in Hertfordshire. Being over the border makes their voice no less important.

Dacorum council I am led to believe are behind the residents as far as is possible. Harpenden council is sending a questionnaire to residents. What a shame we haven’t been offered that. By the time that planning application is submitted it will be too late for us. The expansion will come whatever we think.

We are having so much forced upon us in this part of Luton. J10a ‘improvements’ – we all know that expansion is for the Airport regardless of how it is otherwise sold to us. 18 months of roadworks to look forward to. And the Airport have contributed not one penny to that project I am told.

We have the awful vanity project guided busway coming soon. Still haven’t met one person who says they are going to use it.

We have LBC’s planning dept giving permission for people in our Conservation Area to convert large family homes to HMO’s with all the trouble that brings. And now, building in back gardens.

I think the Airport should be willing to compensate us – those of us who haven’t moved yet. I have never seen so many houses in this area for sale in all the time I have lived here. Isn’t that sad. I imagine I and my neighbours are looking at a substantial decrease in house prices once the Airport expands.

Who wants to live here with the prospect of noisy smelly planes overhead every 90 seconds. The windows in my 100 odd year old house rattle when planes fly over. The cost to replace those in wood or dreaded plastic runs into £1000′s. Are the airport, as a good neighbour going to pay to have all our windows replaced and our homes insulated?

Or, how about they buy all our homes at the going market rate?

Luton airport is simply not in the right place to expand. The road infrastructure, rail etc cannot cope with it as it is. To expect up to 30 million people pa to use the airport is pie in the sky. 1/2 the population of the UK coming through there every year? Simply ridiculous. The proposal for 18 million is bad enough. That would double the current usage.

The skies are full already. You could put people’s safety at risk – in the air and of course us residents.


HC (name supplied)

Airport no-show

Luton Airport operators and owners failed to show up at a meeting at Breachwood Green where more than 80 residents from local towns and villages expected to engage in dialogue about plans to expand the airport. Although claiming to want to consult with people about their views, the empty chairs tell us that there is no real commitment to listen to what people are saying about these proposals.

HALE co-founders Tim Moss and Andrew Lambourne outlined what we know so far about the plans to expand the capacity of the airport from 10m to around 16m passengers per year, and what this would mean in terms of extra flights, increased frequency, bigger planes and more passenger journeys. The meeting then gave residents the chance to express their concerns – the concerns which they had wanted to put directly to the invited representatives of the airport management and owners.

“Disgusted that Robin Harris is not here. Pollution in our gardens in South Luton is terrible and is getting worse and worse and we get little or no benefit from the airport.”

“People under the arrivals flight path have literally had nervous breakdowns because of the incessant noise – even at today’s flight levels.”

“It’s terrible that people are now leaving the area because of this airport – it’s in totally the wrong place for further expansion. We love our towns and villages – why should they blight them?”

“Would the airport operators be so keen to expand the airport if they had to pay compensation for noise pollution in the same way that road-builders do: just because the noise is over our heads it is ignored.”

“There are no legal constraints on the level of night flights from Luton - unlike Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted: this needs to be addressed.”

“Stevenage was not mentioned in the consultation presentations yet the town is bisected by all arrivals from the eastern side – and people cannot enjoy their gardens any more.”

“I’ve just spent a lot of money on loft insulation but it does not help – the noise just keeps on getting worse.”

“Airport owners refused to meet with residents from Slip End – the operators did at least have a meeting and seemed more pragmatic, but we will see if they take onboard the concerns of residents.”

The concensus at the end of the meeting was that people need to write to their MPs and keep them focused on opposing the expansion plans, as well as emailing Luton Borough Council with their opposition. Details are available on this link. The HALE website can be used as a platform for people to express their views – simply post a reply at the end of this story.

The meeting expected dialogue but got none: Neil Thompson the Luton Airport Operations Director had said he would come but then pulled out, so residents made their views known in a graphic way with a rally outside the Village Hall.

Media coverage of this event:
Luton today – Angry residents protest against airport plans
Anglia TV News – Ross Hutchinson on morning news (20 sec into this piece)
Anglia TV News -  Evening news item reporting the meeting - great 2 minute piece
Welwyn and Hatfield Times – Protest meeting over Luton expansion bid

Communities represented at the meeting:
Barton, Breachwood Green, Darley Hall, Flamstead, Harpenden, Kings Walden, Ley Green, Lilley, Luton, Slip End, St Albans, St Paul’s Walden, Stevenage, Stopsley, Whitwell

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

Triple or bust

Herts County Council has just discovered that Luton Airport’s owners are hatching plans to increase capacity not just to 18m passengers per year – double current levels – but to 30m : triple what the airport currently handles. Their pre-application to the National Infrastructure Planning body refers to a planning application as early as end of 2013.

LLAL have indicated from the start that they would eventually like to see the capacity increased to 30m passengers per year. Yet the planning consultation they put forward publicly only talks of 18m. The current airport operators made it very clear that even this would consitute over-investment, and that a realistic maximum for this “local” airport would be more like 16m passengers per year, given that it is only a quarter of the size of Stansted in land area, and only has one runway.

Yet behind the scenes it now seems that LLAL do indeed intend to apply for a further huge hike in passenger numbers.

A serious proposition to grow Luton Airport to 30m passengers a year – triple the current numbers – would massively disrupt the M1 and rail transport infrastructure, as well as blighting local communities with increased noise, pollution and night flights. It would seem very unlikely that the necessary development could be contained on the existing site, and the project would trigger being called-in by government.

It would then become very clear exactly what this govenment’s priorities are in planning and development terms: rational growth based on sound judgement, or support for a ludicrous airport expansion proposal in the middle an already crowded airspace and an already congested urban area, with insufficient transport infrastructure to meet even its current needs.

The pre-application details can be found by clicking on this link. Herts County Council’s press release can be downloaded by clicking here.

Latest details to emerge: minutes of a meeting between LLAL’s consultants and the Infrastructure Planning Commission can be accessed on this link.

Stealth fighter

Luton Airport’s operator LLAOL has announced its own plan for expansion over the next 15 years, to rival the one proposed by its owners Luton Borough Council. We believe they are trying to get this in “under the radar” while people are distracted in fighting LBC’s plans. Key aspects of the LLAOL plan are as follows:

More traffic: LLAOL plans to increase capacity by nearly 60%, to 16 million passengers per year over the next 15 years. That’s an extra 6 million people travelling to and from the airport each year, or 16,000 EACH DAY on the already congested road and rail systems.

More planes: LLAOL will increase the number of flights by 33%, ie 37,000 extra flights a year or 100 more flights EACH DAY, with planes coming over EVERY 90 SECONDS at peak times.

More noise: they propose to use even bigger planes which are heavier and therefore noisier. The percentage of flights above 76dbA has already DOUBLED in the last 5 years, and this trend looks set to continue.

More sleepless nights: they say the proportion of night flights will reduce, but we can safely assume that the NUMBER of night flights will actually increase, otherwise they would have made this clearer.

More hours of plane pain: very weasel words are used to break the bad news that the early morning “peak time” for flights (currently 6am till 9:30am) will be extended, and they carefully avoid being clear about whether it might start EVEN EARLIER.

More overflights: there is no commitment in the plan to avoid overflying towns and villages around the airport. Stevenage for example gets the arrivals coming in directly over the town. Hitchin, Welwyn, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Harpenden, Gaddesden Row are all affected NOW.

More pollution: there is already great concern over nitrogen dioxide levels in the air, and jet engines in particular create more of this pollutant. The plan talks of carbon footprint reduction at the airport but we believe they are not including the biggest carbon footprint of all – from the planes themselves!

So in summary it looks like 100 extra planes a day, 16,000 extra people a day on road and rail, planes every 90 seconds, more noise, a longer peak time, more night flights and more pollution. Thanks, Luton Airport!

To fight this, post us a reply below and contact the Airport by emailing to officially register your objections by 24th April.

In Touch?

Why would an airport operator who had caused a summer of misery to hundreds of people in local villages suddenly want to portray themselves as a good neighbour? Perhaps because there is a break clause coming up shortly in their operating concession?

For whatever reason, LLAOL has published a community newsletter called “In Touch” which makes such amusing reading that it’s even worth downloading a copy from here.

Let’s zero in on some of these In Touch comments and see just how In Touch they really are!

That’s odd – because nothing could be less transparent than the presentation of noise data in the Annual Monitoring Reports – in fact until WE made it transparent (see Noise gate) the airport themselves didn’t know that the flights were getting louder every year! So 1-0 to HALE.

Aircraft have not become quieter – the larger heavier Airbus types are in fact noisier – and there has not been an increase in flights: 2010 had fewer flights than 2008 but they were noisier. 2-0 to us.

 We’re not scoring points on this one: we want to encourage people to use TraVis and then to email when planes stray markedly from the centre line – just so you can enjoy being told that they are entitled to fly over your heads at night if they want to.

Just to be clear on this: the new Brookmans Park route proposal also involves applying a speed limit to all flights on the route, meaning that they fly lower and slower – hence generating more noise and pollution – for longer. This is certainly not flying in the most optimal way, so 3-0 to HALE.




We’re not going to award ourselves another point on this one, since it’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. But how can the airport claim to be taking its environmental responsibilities seriously and at the same time propose to fly planes in such an inefficient manner – slowly at low altitude for longer than needed?

We were so upset by all this prestidigitation with the truth that we decided to create “not In Touch” – the antidote to airport newsletters. Enjoy your free copy by clicking this link.