‘Ambitious’ plans to grow Luton Airport over 30 years

London Luton Airport
London Luton Airport

An “ambitious” vision to grow London Luton Airport over 30 years has been revealed by owner London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) as part of Luton Council’s £1.5bn investment programme.

Luton Council is LLAL’s sole shareholder and airport growth is crucial to the authority’s 20-year ‘Luton Investment Framework’ – a plan which hopes to attact £1.5bn in investment to Luton and create 18,500 new jobs along with other opportunities for residents.

Cllr Andy Malcolm, chair of LLAL and Luton Council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “London Luton Airport is a huge success story. On the back of 44 consecutive months of passenger growth, it is the fifth largest and fastest growing major airport in the UK, sustaining an estimated 33,000 jobs across the region, and contributing more than £1.5bn per year into the UK economy.

“The airport’s growth has been so fast in fact that at its current rate it is due to reach the current permitted capacity of 18 mppa in 2021.”

For each additional one million passengers travelling through London Luton Airport every year, there is an increase of up to 800 new jobs and a £76m uplift for the regional economy, estimates from Oxford Economics suggest.

Nationally, demand for flying is showing a projected shortfall of 60 million passengers per year in UK airports by 2050.

Cllr Malcolm added: “There is now a vital need to plan for London Luton Airport’s long-term future, to ensure the regional economy can enjoy the benefits of this through inclusive growth and to help meet demand for UK aviation.

“At the same time, we are acutely aware of the consequences of having an international airport on the doorstep. Our commitment is to bring forward not only a more modern and efficient but also an environmentally and socially responsible London Luton Airport.”

LLAL has begun to develop its plans with some environmental policies in place, new best-in-class air quality monitoring has been commissioned.

However, LLAL acknowledged that more work is needed to tackle the negative impacts on climate change and the environment associated with airport expansion.

The company stated: “Ahead of any future expansion work, we will develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce where possible carbon emissions associated with additional construction and operation of LTN.”

Construction is due to start next year on the £225m passenger transfer service Luton DART (Direct Air to Rail Transit) which promises to slash journey times from Luton Airport Parkway to the terminal to three minutes.

Under the London Luton Airport (LTN) Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020-2050, passenger capacity would go from 18 million to 36-38 mppa, and the airport would accommodate 240,000 annual air traffic movements.

Growth at the airport would be achieved by making the best use possible of LTN’s existing, single runway.

Through LLAL, London Luton Airport generates significant direct income for Luton Council, contributing £25.6m for vital services and infrastructure investment in 2016/17.

In addition, more than £120m has been provided since 2004 to local charities, community and voluntary organisations in Luton and communities affected by airport operations.

Leader of Luton Council Cllr Hazel Simmons added: “The past few years have been financially challenging for many people. To meet some of these challenges we have been working hard to bring more money and opportunities into the town to improve people’s lives.

“LLAL is working with us as a key partner in delivering the Luton Investment Framework, and it is clear that the airport cannot stand still if it is to pull its weight for Luton and for the UK and sub-regional economies.”

There is now a lot of work to do as LLAL’s technical team considers the airport’s medium to long-term capacity within its particular constraints, and the immediate result will be a draft masterplan for how this can be achieved.

LLAL is committed to a full, robust and thorough approach to engagement with residents and communities, and will begin consulting on the masterplan in mid-2018.

The likely outcome is that LLAL will need to submit an application for a Development Consent Order to the national Planning Inspectorate, as it would be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.

Cllr Malcolm said: “Our vision is to make best use of the existing runway to provide the maximum benefit to the local and sub-regional economy, deliver good levels of service to all the airport’s customers and to actively manage environmental impacts at the local and wider levels in line with our commitment to responsible and sustainable development.

“To be clear, we will not be proposing either a second or an extended runway.

“We will invest all necessary time and resource to carefully consider all the infrastructure, access and environmental protection issues with neighbouring authorities, regulators and the wider community.

“We will work tirelessly to keep everyone informed of developments and proposals as soon as they emerge, and make sure everyone has an opportunity to feed into the process and provide comments which will be very carefully considered at every step on this important journey.”

The London Luton Airport Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020-2050 is available to view online at www.llal.org.uk

LLAL’s aim is to secure consent within four years, and will have more details available next year. In the meantime, comments or questions can be sent to vision2050@llal.org.uk.