Rethink over link road to luton airport?

The proposed route
The proposed route

A plan to build a new link road through the east of Luton to the airport could be shelved, as alternative options are considered following local opposition.

The route along Eaton Green Road was proposed as a way of accessing a second terminal building at the airport.

While it has still to be officially abandoned, a public meeting at a Let’s Talk event in the east of the town, this week heard that the issue is being reviewed.

A recent public consultation process over the planned future expansion of the airport up to 2050 revealed the extent of feeling over the access road. The Liberal Democrat group on the borough council also came out strongly against the idea, saying the link road was “unacceptable”, and they would continue to campaign against it.

A route via Eaton Green Road would make Ashcroft Road, Wigmore Lane, Lalleford Road and Eaton Green Road major access routes to the airport, according to the Lib Dems.

They said recently: “The council and its airport company cannot be allowed to get away with a plan which unnecessarily blights 20 per cent of the town.”

No firm commitment is on the table to suggest an alternative has been found at this stage. And in a series of tweets, following Monday’s meeting at Ramridge Primary School, the council remained vague on the subject.

One of its tweets said: “Looking at highways issues in the east of Luton, it has been agreed that a dedicated future meeting would be useful in relation to airport expansion.”

The two issues of the link road and the call for another public meeting weren’t combined during the question and answer session attended by council chief executive Trevor Holden and Labour council leader Hazel Simmons.

Also answering residents’ concerns were the council’s corporate director customer and commercial Robin Porter and Labour councillor Andy Malcolm, who chairs London Luton Airport Ltd.

Mr Porter said at the meeting: “We have already started to take account of some of the things that came out of the consultation.

“We are relooking at the road alignment that we had as part of the consultation, and also relooking at the boundary of Wigmore Park and the development.”

Another post-meeting council tweet said: “Concerns are being raised over local impacts including air quality.

“Best in class monitoring has been commissioned and councillor Simmons has agreed to look again at the locations being covered.”

Residents called for an independent company to be involved in the monitoring process, and want all toxic particles monitored, not just nitrogen dioxide.

Councillor Malcolm replied: “We are committed towards testing for all the relevant particles.”

His suggestion that the worst pollution problems were not at the airport were met with a comment: “How can you say that when you haven’t measured them?” by resident Carolyn Cottier.

She asked why there was no monitoring in four ward areas closest to the airport, Wigmore, Stopsley, High Town and Round Green.

Mr Holden said: “We need to take this point (air quality monitoring) back as part of the consultation and report back to you.

“There will be technological solutions. We will come back to say these are the solutions being looked at and here are the locations, and why these locations.”

Asked if equipment showed a high level what would be the response, Mr Holden said enforcement will be required to mitigate those measures and to make sure it operates within limits.

“It’s not a case of monitoring, publishing and forgetting it,” he explained. “That would be absurd. Why would you bother measuring it in those circumstances?”

Councillor Simmons said: “I quite take on board the air quality point being made. We are looking at all of that as part of the whole programme. But we’re not going to not grow the airport. We need to deal with these things.

“We’re not going to stop economic growth. It’s not going to stop, is it? We need to find ways of dealing with it.

“ I do genuinely commit to looking at the air quality monitoring, but we can’t stop the growth of the airport. It’s too important to the town. It’s too important for the future of the town, because soon government will not be giving us any funding to help run services in this town.

“If you didn’t have income coming in from the airport, council tax would go up by at least 30 per cent.”

“The reason we can keep it down is because of the money coming in from the airport.

“We haven’t got all the answers here tonight. I will get people to look at the overall area of the east.”

She explained: “Luton is a landlocked town and we have to develop where we have the land. That is one of our biggest problems.”

“There is a geunine commitment that we will work with you on the expansion of the airport.

“None of this is about making things worse. We will do our best to mitigate.”

Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Peter Chapman, who chaired the public part of the event, said: “The east of Luton feels particularly under attack.

“It seems everyone’s working in isolation and we haven’t got an overall view of all of these things happening to the east of Luton.

“You have had unanimous support for the Luton Plan, but we only supported it because we didn’t think there would be access from Eaton Green Road.

“That was never in the plan,” he added. “There is not unanimous support for that Local Plan with that road in.

“We hope that you understand that people in the east of Luton, who are most impacted by these huge developments, feel that it is not being dealt with in a co-ordinated way.”

A suggestion was made for a follow-up meeting, and Mr Holden agreed that would be a good idea once the airport expansion public consultation has been evaluated.