Luton Airport expansion 'central' to council's mission to eliminate poverty in the town

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"If we're given permission to expand, Luton is in command of its destiny.”

Expanding London Luton Airport is central to the local authority’s mission to eliminate child poverty and raise living standards in the town by 2040, according to the council’s chief executive.

Based on its minimum income model “we know nine per cent of our households are living in destitution, with a further 12 per cent struggling to afford basic living standards”, Robin Porter told a Planning Inspectorate open hearing.

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LBC’s airport company London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) submitted its development consent order (DCO) plans to increase passenger capacity to 32m over several years.

Luton AirportLuton Airport
Luton Airport

This would involve expanding the airport terminal and building a second one, as well as creating the New Century Park business development.

Mr Porter explained: “This Luton 2040 vision is being delivered in partnership with our local system, of which the airport is a key anchor.

“The central mission is tackling poverty, because in Luton it’s too high, with 39 per cent of children living in relative poverty. That’s 24,000 young people living in households where they can’t afford the basics.

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“The airport has been critical to the town’s survival during challenging times and at the heart of our mission to eradicate poverty. The success has been remarkable given Luton has been seriously underfunded by the government.”

The town has the second largest gap in the country between public spending and relative need, at £278 per resident below, he said. “Many of the factors driving poverty in the country and our town are out of our control.

“But the airport is the largest economic asset and is absolutely within our control. If we’re given permission to expand, Luton is in command of its destiny.

“Since we began the 2040 mission in 2020, we’ve cut the level of child poverty from 45 per cent to 39 per cent, which is 3,800 children no longer growing up in poverty.

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“There’s a clear correlation between the airport growth and improving the life chances of people in the town. In 2017, we were the number one place in the country for private sector job and salary growth. Last year we were seventh.

“The airport has contributed £257m to fund front line services since 1998 and more than £150m directly into the community since 2002. It’s no exaggeration to say that in times of unprecedented challenge and local need the airport has been crucial to the survival of the town.”

An increase in economic activity of £1.5bn a year, 11,000 jobs, an extra £13m for local charities and green controlled growth “will make a massive and transformative difference to our town”, he added.

“Our new inward investment brand Step Forward Luton will be taking this overall proposition to the market to attract further finance. The presence of the airport is central to our current businesses and the reason interested investors choose Luton.

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“It’s the largest economic asset in the region and the only international airport in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. We’re uniquely positioned in the centre of that golden triangle, one of the government’s prime growth areas for the next generations.”