Local campaign group St.Albans Quieter Skies are concerned about plans for a more than doubling in passenger numbers flying from Luton Airport.
Sharon Hollingsworth of St.Albans Quieter Skies explained on Environment Matters. She said that initial expansion started 2013 with an aim to increase passenger numbers from 12 million per year to 18 million by 2028. This would, in theory, allow sufficient time to modernise airspace and bring in quieter planes. Luton will meet its targets by 2020 – 8 years early but with no modernised airspace and only two quieter planes currently in its fleet.
Luton are now proposing to expand up to 38 million passengers per year by 2050 – but are already talking about reaching that by 2040s.
These numbers will involve 240,000 flights a year – or 40 air traffic movements per hour. The flights currently generally operate between 6am and midnight, with later flights if there are delays and occasional night time cargo flights. This increase in flight numbers is very likely to encroach on to night time.
Luton Borough Council owns the airport, Luton Borough Council sets the noise control limits on the airport. Sharon contended that there is effectively no regulatory control and that they have already watered down their current night time regulations.
Currently, less than 16% of passengers arrive at the airport by rail – the target figure for the 18m capacity was to be 40 % of passengers. However Luton Airport have plans for a new rail link to replace the current shuttle bus and encourage people to travel to the airport by train. Sharon pointed out that even if the 40% target was achieved – it means that nearly 30,000 passengers per day are arriving by road. This would therefore increase to over 60,000 per day after the expansion. Two thirds of passengers live outside of Herts, Beds and Bucks and so these road journeys are not insignificant – and will there be room on crowded trains for the additional passengers?
If a planning application is made for any increase of more than 10m passengers per year flying from Luton, it would be classified as an Infrastructure Project of National Significance, and so would require approval from the Planning Inspectorate.
Sharon said that both Anne Main and Bim Afolami have both expressed serious concerns about this expansion.
If you are concerned please join the local campaign group StAlbans Quieter Skies at www.staqs.org