Luton Airport campaigners plan day of protest over expansion plans

Airport says it has 'never been more closely focussed on environmental matters and climate change'.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 1:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 2:12 pm

Campaigners against the growth of London Luton Airport are meeting at Wigmore Valley Park on Saturday as part of a national campaign to call for an immediate halt on all airport expansions and to warn against what they claim are false ‘techno-fix’ hopes to cut aviation greenhouse gas emissions.

As the Cop26 climate change conference continues in Glasgow, they are warning against claims that flying can be made zero carbon by 2050.

They say it will be decades before new aviation technologies and ‘sustainable’ fuels are used on long-haul flights, which cause the overwhelming majority of aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

London Luton Airport

Local campaigners will join with airport campaigns across the UK as they aim to send a clear message that the only way to cut emissions from flying in the climate-critical next 10 years is to fly less – and that means stopping all airport expansions.

Simultaneous protests will be held at 11am against expansion plans at, amongst others, Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, London-City, Southampton, Bristol, Doncaster-Sheffield and Leeds-Bradford airports.

Wigmore Valley Park sits on the eastern boundary of Luton’s airport and will be decimated under expansion plans, say campaigners.

A spokesman for the campaign said: “LADACAN, St Albans Quiet Skies (STaQS), and Stop Luton Airport Expansion (SLAE), along with other local community groups have long held both the owner and operator of London Luton Airport, to account for how airport operations affect local amenity and quality of life.

Wigmore Valley Park (Google)

“We’ve heard claims that new technology will allow the aviation industry to carry on with business-as-usual as the climate crisis has grown.

“It’s deeply irresponsible to spread these false hopes. New aircraft designs and ‘sustainable’ aviation fuels are decades away from making a dent in the huge quantity of emissions caused by the increase in leisure flying, fuelled by loss-leading low, unrealistic air fares. That’s not going to change anytime soon, unless action is taken to control airport capacity.

“Currently multiple flights leave for the same destinations, at the same times, with empty seats on each flight. Such practice, whilst good for airlines and airports is a death sentence for climate.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us we need to halve our emissions by 2030 to prevent climate breakdown. Allowing airports and their emissions to expand flies in the face of scientific advice.”

Peter White from SLAE, said: “Both the owner and operator of London Luton Airport have said over the recent years of the expansion of flights from Luton Airport that technical advancements in aircraft will make everything alright.

“That has never happened, because financial gain has always trumped environmental responsibility. Maybe, one day, we’ll be able to fly in large, zero-emission aircraft but we know that’s not an option in the foreseeable future. The only thing we can do right now to cut emissions from flying is to fly less. And that means stopping all airport expansions.”

Graham Olver, Chief Executive Officer of London Luton Airport Ltd, the Luton Council company that owns the airport, said: “We would like to assure everyone who has an interest in the future success of our airport and our town that our attentions have never been more closely focussed on environmental matters and climate change.

“We fully understand that the enormous opportunities of future growth go hand-in-hand with a responsibility to make sure that we deliver the significant potential economic, employment and community benefits in a way that means everyone can be proud of our airport.

“Our unique ownership, and the vital support we provide for front-line services, tackling poverty and the voluntary and community organisations that transform people’s lives in our town, mean we are already the most socially impactful airport in the UK.

“It is our commitment to fully support Luton’s 2040 Vision and work in partnership with our operator by becoming one of its greenest airports too.

“We are absolutely clear that the operation and construction activities of our airport must be net zero carbon by 2040, and that the journeys people make getting to and from the terminal must be carbon neutral by 2050. Our investment in the Luton DART sets us on this course, and we intend to set out within a few weeks how these objectives will be achieved.

“We are also developing what we believe will be the most far-reaching commitments to minimising environmental impact from expansion ever put forward by a UK airport.

“Our unique and ground-breaking initiative, Green Managed Growth, will set new and binding limits for noise, carbon, air quality and surface access as the airport grows, and ensure that the future growth we want at Luton will be green growth and independently monitored. We look forward to setting this out at a further consultation on the airport’s growth early next year.

“The Government has made clear that aviation carbon emissions are a global issue and therefore delivering Jet Zero is its responsibility. This doesn’t mean however that all proposed airport expansions are the same. We are committed to making sure that our proposals are the very best they can be for Luton.

“We appreciate that the necessary use of part of the existing Wigmore Valley Park is not satisfactory for everyone. We are working to make sure the park can continue to be a highly-valued green space between the airport and nearby residential areas, as well as being bigger, with improved access for people of all abilities, and a full range of biodiversity enhancements for existing and new habitats. This is what is expected from us as an airport owner that takes its responsibility to future generations with the utmost seriousness.”

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