Campaigners fighting against the expansion of London Luton Airport say the latest consultation is "a huge waste of public money".
The consultation, which launched today (Tuesday), is for plans to increase the number of passengers flying out of the airport, from the current 18 million a year, to 32 million.
Luton Rising, the owners of the airport, want to build a new terminal and make the best use of the existing runway.
But speaking on behalf of local communities who say they have been badly impacted by the airport, Andrew Lambourne of LADACAN (Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) said: “The last thing people who live in this area want – having been so badly affected in 2019 by a constant stream of ever-noisier flights, clogged roads and standing room only on trains – is the prospect of the situation getting far worse than that.
"Rather than economic benefit, it could blight the area. No effective mitigations have been put in place, and people are utterly fed up with the reckless commercial greed being shown.”
He went on: “This plan continues to invest in the past rather than creating a more sustainable local economy.
"Kerosene-fuelled passenger aircraft aren’t magically going to be replaced overnight; so called sustainable fuels are very expensive and use biomass essential for other purposes; planting young trees is not going to solve the climate crisis; and Luton needs a more diverse local economy rather than just constantly returning to the obsessive vision of a decade ago. The world has moved on, and Luton Airport’s owners need to think differently. Look at their lack of resilience: the airport owning company was almost bankrupted by COVID, the town brought to its knees, and hundreds of millions of pounds of debt has been run up. The vision for the future needs to change.”
Launching the consultation last week Councillor Javeria Hussain, Chair of Luton Rising, said: “Our proposals will reflect the sustainability values, both of Luton Rising, and our sole shareholder, Luton Council. We want to maximise the social and economic benefits of growth and we firmly believe there is a way to grow an airport in a sustainably responsible way.
"We set out details on how we propose to achieve that in our consultation. Sustainability is about more than environmental issues – it’s social and economic impacts too. Our airport is a vital part of the economic ecosystem of the region and beyond, directly and indirectly supporting tens of thousands of jobs. The proposed expansion will generate thousands more jobs and more than a £1 billion increase in economic activity in Luton and the neighbouring counties. We want more local people to be able to access these jobs, so our proposals also include an extensive Draft Employment and Training Strategy to make that possible.
“Our airport is the most socially impactful in the UK. Since 1998, we have contributed £257 million to support frontline services, and since 2002, we have contributed £155 million to support local community organisations and charities – 20x per passenger more than any other UK airport. These organisations help make life-transforming changes for people, and our proposals include the new Community First fund, which will allow for much greater support for community projects in Luton and the neighbouring counties impacted by airport operations.”
But campaigners say plans for the latest consultation have already cost the airport more than £40 million. They say the plan is “a huge waste of public money” given the current expansion plan has not yet been completed, there is uncertainty about future demand in light of climate change, and lack of progress with vital airspace modernisation.
John Hale for STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies), said: “When Luton Airport got permission to expand to 18 million passengers, residents were promised action would be taken to alleviate the noise nuisance – but since then the situation has worsened. Now the airport owner wants to increase the noise and environmental damage this Airport already causes. It is time to say NO to further expansion and to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on this scheme.”
The detailed proposals, consultation materials and the virtual consultation room are now live on the website at lutonrising.org.uk