Plans to triple Luton Airport passengers

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PLANS to expand Luton Airport to fly 30 million passengers a year are not being pursued at the moment, the airport operator said today (May 24).

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) councillors were ‘shocked’ to discover the potential planning application to triple passengers yesterday, which they said was expected to be submitted by late 2013.

Previous discussions between Luton Borough Council (LBC) and operator London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAL) had been looking at increasing passengers to 16 million - 18 million.

A LLAL spokesperson said: “At present, LLAL is concentrating upon the 18 millon passengers per annum (mppa) futureLuToN:Optimisation project. This means that a 30 mppa project is not being pursued for the time being. If this were ever to be pursued the proposal would have to be subject to the rigorous environmental impact assessment processes and public consultation that apply under the Planning Act 2008.”

The spokesperson said the Government identified the runway capacity at Luton Airport as being up to 30mppa, in the Future of Aviation White Paper.

He said LLAL had been ‘completely open’ about looking at ‘alternative development scenarios’.

He said: “We have always considered that growth at London Luton Airport is beneficial to the South East and that is why we are currently fully engaged in working on our plans to develop the capacity of the airport to handle 18 mppa.”

In 2011 the number of passengers travelling through the airport was 9.5 million.

Any proposal for expansion of the scale of 30 million would be made to the Planning Inspectorate because it would be deemed as nationally significant and therefore subject to separate statutory procedures.

HCC Councillor Robert Gordon, leader of HCC, said: “I am stunned by this news. Local authorities and communities alike are worried at the speed with which even the current proposals to expand capacity up to 18mppa are being progressed, but have engaged in the consultations and await any planning application in good faith.

“I am shocked to discover that even before the recent public consultations had taken place the owner of the airport has already been in discussion with the Planning Inspectorate about submitting a planning application to it to expand the airport up to 30mppa as early as next year. Make no mistake, this is a huge expansion proposal and represents a throughput not significantly different from that currently experienced at London Gatwick and 10mppa more than currently experienced at London Stansted.

“I can only imagine the distress this news is going to cause to local communities and action groups.”