Campaigners interrupt council meeting to protest against expansion plans for Luton airport

Protestors voiced their concerns on plans to accommodate 19 million passengers annually

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 10:48 am

Boisterous environmental campaigners interrupted a local authority meeting which backed passenger expansion plans for London Luton Airport.

Two protesters loudly voiced their opinions on an application by London Luton Airport Operations Limited’s (LLAOL) to accommodate 19 million passengers annually.

One called out during a borough council development management committee meeting: “What about the environment? Come on. This is a disgrace. Cancel the expansion.

Protest banner in the public gallery at the council chamber

“What about the planet?” he asked. “Does nobody care? The most polluted town in the country and you want to pollute it more. Great. Thank you.”

The pair left the council chamber after their vociferous messages to councillors, council officers and consultants, as well as the contingent from LLAOL.

Earlier they displayed a banner saying Cancel Luton Airport Expansion in the public gallery.

Immediately before the uproar, Luton Mayor and Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain indicated he would ask for a condition on investment in the environment to be included, in light of the strength of feeling described in more measured tones over the two evenings which the committee sat.

“How supportive are you to those areas of the town immediately under the flightpath?” he asked.

The airport’s director of corporate affairs Oliver Jaycock replied: “We’re incredibly committed. We’re local residents and employees.

“We’ve a dedicated community trust fund which we target on specific areas, such as yours.

“My only advice would be to have that conversation. Let’s find ways where we can work better together.”

A previous planning permission granted in June 2014 was subject to a number of conditions, including a passenger cap limiting the total number to 18 million passengers per annum.

LLAOL requested to vary conditions on passenger capacity, noise contours, parking management and a travel plan from a 2017 application.

Labour South councillor David Agbley referred to the objectors’ comments that the airport “has been ignoring its noise management plan, its noise mitigation and its noise insulation scheme”.

“Why should we believe this time you’re not going to do the same?” he asked. “The question everyone wants to know is ‘Do you see yourselves above the law or do you abide by the law’?”

The airport’s head of communications Neil Bradford replied: “Of the 28 planning conditions attached to our original permission we’ve remained compliant with all but one of those, that’s condition ten about noise.

“As soon as it became apparent that was the case we’ve ensured we followed due process.

“We’ve been open and transparent with our communities and with the local authority about the steps we’ve taken to address this.

“Regrettably those steps didn’t produce the contour sizes we expected, but throughout we’ve acted in accordance with the planning rules, we’ve acted responsibly and been open and transparent.”

Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, said: “It’s good that democracy does work and exists in Luton.

“I’ve certainly read all the objections. The reality is climate change is prominent in everyone’s lives. There’s an impact. There’s no doubt about it.

“I’m not a climate change denier. But it has to be done progressively. We can only determine this on planning grounds, not emotional ones.

“The airport can still operate up to 18 million passengers on the old permission. I’m convinced now more than ever the economic benefits outweigh the environmental impact.”

Reassurances from airport representatives that they would discuss local environmental improvements, such as tree planting, outside of the planning process persuaded councillor Hussain not to demand a condition be included.

Councillors voted seven in favour and two against to allow the increase in passenger numbers and amendments to the noise contours.