Hertfordshire County Council has registered its opposition to neighbouring Luton’s plan to expand its airport.
The authority said it was reacting with concern to yesterday’s publication by London Luton Airport Limited of its ambition to double the number of passengers using the airport to potentially 36-38 million passengers a year, compared 16 million now.
David Williams, leader of Herts County Council, said: “I can imagine how news of this proposal will be received in the communities in Hertfordshire whose lives are already blighted by aircraft noise created by the airport, even with the current passenger numbers.
“My main concern at this stage, therefore, is the impact this news will impact will have on those communities.
“My other immediate concern is the transport implications. How can that level of growth possibly be achieved without compromising the capacity of our road and rail systems and how can it be done in a way which shifts journeys to the airport away from the car and towards public transport?
“I do fully recognise and appreciate the potential economic benefits that would come with growth of the airport. But the key now must be for the airport to work with stakeholders to develop a masterplan which strikes an appropriate balance between growth and environmental impact, in a way which safeguards communities and comes with the right supporting infrastructure.
“Only by doing that will it be possible to ascertain whether an appropriate balance can be achieved. Addressing noise issues is probably the biggest challenge facing that process and this needs to be tackled head-on, right from the start. I would encourage all stakeholders and communities to engage with the forthcoming masterplanning consultation process next year.”
Cllr Williams added that he was concerned about the potential “constraints” of Hertfordshire’s growth caused by the airport expansion – particularly the impact upon transport and infrastructure.
He stated: “We also need to look at the bigger picture here. The growth agenda in this part of the country is huge. The Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis conurbation has major growth plans and here in Hertfordshire we have incredibly ambitious growth of our own.
“The conurbation and the airport are also within the Government supported Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth corridor where nationally significant economic, housing and infrastructure growth is proposed.
“The future of the airport must be seen within the context of not only the potential opportunities, but also the constraints that may come with this.”
In response, a Luton Council spokesman said: “Luton Council and its airport company London Luton Airport Ltd are committed to the London Luton Airport Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020-2050 as a fantastic opportunity to contribute to the forecast shortfall in national aviation capacity and to generate economic growth, jobs, prosperity and aspiration across the sub-region.
“We absolutely understand that airport operations can bring adverse impacts. LLAL will work tirelessly to minimise and mitigate these as the proposal is developed, and has already begun developing its plans for improvement within a new long-term environmental strategy for the airport. It is further committed to a full, robust and thorough approach to engagement with all our partners and communities. We anticipate that a clearer understanding of the scope of the project should emerge by spring/summer 2018, and look forward to beginning the initial round of informal public consultation in mid-2018.”