On the 11th November, Luton Borough Council’s (LBC) Executive Committee will meet to discuss the outstanding long lease agreement on Wigmore Valley Park (WVP), to its airport company, London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL). This item has been on the Committee’s “to do” list for several months now, but each time has been pushed backwards. This meeting starts at 6.00pm, and will be live streamed on LBC’s you tube feed, but as with all Council business on LLAL, will our screens go blank again?
We believe both LBC and LLAL will not want the public to know exactly what fees are changing hands, if any at all, and what the details and lifetime of the lease will be. WVP as a public amenity, is owned and maintained by LBC on behalf of the residents.
However, it leases the park to LLAL, as it sits on the Eastern airport boundary, and is the site for New Century Park (though that should really be New Century Car Parks, as that is all that is feasibly left of that project now – the project that is the precursor for Terminal 2 and expansion).
As you already know from previous articles Dear Reader, LLAL is penniless without the huge bailout loans made to it by LBC. LBC could ask for £1 million a year, it wouldn’t matter, as it would provide that money, just to get it back, so the utterly bonkers and detached from the real-world financing merry go round of LBC/LLAL would continue.
We will always maintain that development into WVP is completely unnecessary, as there is enough vacant / underused / derelict land and buildings within the current airport footprint to provide the predominantly car parking expansion LLAL propose. We therefore feel it crucial that a caveat be placed on this licence that it cannot under any circumstances be transferred to any airport operating concessionaire, or any other organisation for financial gain, and if LLAL should cease to be a going concern, it will not be sold on to pay off the debts of LLAL.
We say this because it has been known since Day One of the Terminal 2 expansion plans, that LLAL/LBC expects the new concession in 2031 to pay for the expansion and build it. Why would any airport operator do that if it does not own the land?
Therefore, it is crucial that a caveat be laid down now that any WVP transfer cannot happen, as whoever the next concession may be, cannot move WVP on to yet another developer, for any anti-social purpose they chose, or for financial gain.
As for LLAL ceasing to be a going concern, and it having to be wound up (and therefore its assets sold), that possibility is now even greater than ever. LLAL cannot say when it will start getting income from the concession fee; its latest estimate to restart dividend payments to LBC was 2026.
Five years of borrowing to pay off its current debts, adding to those on a daily basis with over runs on DART and its DCO rewrite. The return of WVP back to LBC under such circumstances is vitally important, for the same reasons as previously stated.
We will still be logging in on the 11th however – who knows we may be shocked when our screens don’t go blank again, and details of the lease are made public. After all, we can all only live-in hope that, for once, the decent thing will be done, and a provision made that WVP will always stay in the possession of the people of Luton.
Save Wigmore Valley Park – Stop Luton Airport Expansion