Extinction Rebellion protest over Luton Airport expansion plans

Local Extinction Rebellion activists have staged protests at the final statutory consultation on Luton Airport expansion.

By Lynn Hughes
Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 11:46 am

Visitors to the event, at Wigmore Church in Luton on Saturday (March 26), were greeted with music, dancing, costumes, and banners warning of rising pollution and the risk of climate catastrophe.

Protestors also entered the venue for a ‘die-in’, lying on the ground in the hall to draw attention to the cost of the airport expansion which they say will emit more carbon emissions, and a deadly threat to human and non-human life on the planet.

“We call on the council and Luton Rising to cancel the airport expansion plans”, said a spokesperson for the group. “This is a climate emergency. We need to be reducing greenhouse gases across every sector, not giving the green light to a huge increase in pollution from aviation.”

Campaigners at the protest on Saturday

Passenger numbers had already doubled at Luton Airport between 2008 and 2018, reaching a pre-pandemic peak in 2019. The airport’s owners, Luton Rising, propose a second terminal and an increase to 32 million passengers a year. Campaigners say this will inevitably lead to increases in traffic, air pollution, and noise pollution that affects the entire region.

Campaigners against the plans add that as well as local and regional effects, the growth in passenger numbers will also mean a huge expansion in carbon emissions from the planes. They believe these are not accounted for in Luton Rising’s green measures, which only cover ground operations.

“We’re hearing a lot about jobs for Luton, but there are no jobs on a dead planet. We would encourage everyone to respond to the consultation online at lutonrising.org.uk and oppose these plans.”

But speaking at a consultation event in St Albans programme director for the development consent order Antony Aldridge said: "Our green controlled growth proposals are groundbreaking. This is something we're putting forward voluntarily.

Protestors outside the consultation

"They go far beyond any airport application in this country has gone before in setting out in statute hard environmental limits which we won't be allowed to breach. If we do, growth has to stop.

"There are clear commercial constraints enshrined in legislation, all monitored by a new independent body to be established through the process," he said. "Traffic congestion is addressed by the green controlled growth, so there'll be an absolute limit.

"By the time we reach 32m passengers, there must be a minimum of 45 per cent of people arriving at the airport by public transport. If we can't provide such a plan, the document allowing the airport to grow to that level won't be approved.

"Our assessments suggest even when we reach 32m passengers a year there's no noticeable air quality difference from our project. There'll be legally binding and independently measured limits on air quality.”

He added: "Across the three counties area we're talking about something around £1bn gross value added to the local economy on an annual basis.”

The public consultation is continuing until April 4. To find out more and have your say go to http://lutonrising.org.uk/consultation/