Luton Airport's expansion to 19 million passengers placed on temporary hold while Government minister mulls over growth plan

Michael Gove has the option of 'calling in' proposals and examining them in more detail

By Euan Duncan
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 1:59 pm

Plans to increase the annual passenger throughput at London Luton Airport from 18m to 19m are on hold for now, while a government minister decides whether to review the borough council's approval of the application.

The Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and the Communities Michael Gove has issued "a holding direction" which prevents the local authority from issuing a final decision.

Mr Gove has the option of calling in London Luton Airport Operations Limited's proposals and examining them in more detail, after planning permission was granted by LBC's development management committee in December.

London Luton Airport

The delay has an impact on some of the baseline figures on display at the current Luton Rising airport expansion consultation event. The airport is owned by Luton Borough Council's airport company Luton Rising, which is responsible for plans to increase the capacity to 32m passengers per year.

Campaigners have protested outside some of the venues and were displaying placards outside the Jubilee Centre in St Albans on Tuesday (March 22).

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Speaking for a coalition of six environmental groups, Yvonne Hall referred to Luton Rising's proposals to "nearly double" the number of passengers using the airport.

The airport event in St Albans

"We feel strongly these plans would be detrimental and not compatible with the borough council's declaration of a climate and nature crisis," she explained.

"It will increase pollution. Luton Rising doesn't know how that air pollution created by all these passengers would be controlled and neither does the government. There's an emissions trading scheme, but it's not known how that will operate.

"Luton has one of the worst air qualities in the country. One in 18 people die of bad air-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organisation.

"People living around the area are sick of noise levels being broken for years, congested roads, poor air quality and we certainly don't want the destruction of Wigmore Valley Park. It would be a terrible loss to the community. It's so important to have that green oasis.

Airport event in St Albans this week whenre Yvonne Hall is standing next to the grim reaper

"We've a few years left to turn around the world climate crisis. It's that serious. We shouldn't be increasing pollution, and should be doing everything we can to decrease it for our children and our grandchildren to have a better future.

"It's so we can survive as well because it's an existential threat to us and many other species."

She suggested passenger demand could be "regulated and managed", adding: "The declared national climate and nature crisis has to be more important than someone wanting to fly cheaply to Spain.

"Perhaps everyone could have one flight a year. That's just an idea. It needs to be regulated. It's got to be controlled. We can't expand. It's killing us.

"It's going the wrong way. Train people in jobs which are green and renewable, not ones that kill us basically with more pollution.

"Wartime and the pandemic have shown us how quickly we can change how we live and operate. That's what's needed, a crisis footing."

Programme director for the development consent order Antony Aldridge said: "It's regrettable we need to build on Wigmore Valley Park. We've looked at alternatives. Some of those were operationally inefficient.

"The one which best avoided the park meant we have to extend the airport infrastructure out as far as Breachwood Green and thoroughly within the Green Belt. We'd have this green pocket of Wigmore Park almost surrounded by built infrastructure.

"If we're going to grow we need a bigger footprint for the airport. It's one of the most physically constrained in the country."

The last exhibition event is at Wigmore Church and Community Centre in Luton on Saturday (Mar 26th) from 10.30am to 3pm.