Luton Airport growth breaks noise limit

Within a month of getting expansion permission, Luton Airport was incentivised to grab as much capacity as possible before other airports got the business, apparently regardless of the impact on local communities through out-of-balance growth getting ahead of mitigations.

December 2013: Luton Borough Council gives its Airport permission to double capacity from 9 to 18 million passengers per annum over 15 years. Planning controls limited peak noise and numbers of flights, and required additional flight numbers to be offset by quieter aircraft.

January 2014: officers and members of the Council who run its Airport-owning company LLAL, sign a financial deal with the Airport operators to incentivise accelerated growth for business reasons. Growth would then outstrip the balancing mitigation of quieter planes.

December 2016: the Airport reports its busiest ever year, and predicts it will exceed its night noise contour planning control by a significant amount in summer 2017. The Council takes no action to require the operator to stay within planning limits agreed just three years before.

February 2018: given that the Airport has taken no action and has breached its night noise planning limit in 2017, the Council requests a plan to remedy the breach and mitigate harm. It does not check that the plan is adequate, and so a further breach occurs during 2018.

Autumn 2018: thinking as airport owners, the Council officers and members know they want the growth to continue. With their Planning Authority hats on they decide the Airport should be allowed to applying to the Council for the noise limit to be varied, rather than enforcing it.

April 2019: the Airport applies to substantially increase the day and night noise footprints. Hundreds of residents object, Herts County Council calls it a betrayal, and the Council’s noise consultant rules it unclear about the negative impacts and offering inadequate mitigation.

August 2019: Luton Airport submits a revised application, while having continued towards a further breach of the planning limit for the third year running. The application claims that the business would be damaged if it had to abide by the planning limits.

In a co-timed move, the Airport has also taken steps towards breaking through the 18 million passenger limit – due to apply until 2028 – now saying it wants 19 million. This explains why it asked for such a significant increase to the day noise contour as well as the night-time limit.

It looks as if there never was any intention to honour the noise contour limit or the passenger limit, but to press on with expansion at the fastest possible rate and then to ask the Council to change the limits as they are reached. This breaks the contract made with the community when planning was granted.