Luton Airport Passenger numbers to increase to 19 million

On 13th October 2023 the Planning Inspectorate finally published the decision from the Secretaries of States (SOS) for Transport and Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on their Planning Inquiry (PI) that ran from September to November 2022.

Despite a robust case against permission by LADACAN on behalf of opposition groups, it is not really any surprise to find that the application was passed. The full Inspectors’ Report and the summing up by the Secretaries can be found here:-

One of the keystones for the applicants’ case was that fleet modernisation by Luton’s airlines would lead to the introduction of newer aircraft, thus meaning less noise and environmental pollution. 

The PI took the forecast for this modernisation by the applicant as more robust than the alternatives put forward by LADACAN.  We feel this to be rather condescending, as it infers expensively collated data is more realistic and reliable than that provided by LADACAN.  The PI state that as LADACAN had not spoken to the airlines, how could they come up with a true fleet modernisation model?

Just exactly how were they supposed to have done that exercise?  However polite the request would have been, it would have been met with a resounding no, so the only alternative is to produce an alternative example? It is also a regular occurrence for an airline to place an order for aircraft with delivery dates, and then swap those dates with other airlines if they feel they do not need those aircraft at those delivery dates, so the data provided is only as accurate as the day it is supplied.

The PI also discounted the noise calibration model objections presented by LADACAN, as they did not produce an alternative model.  Building such a thing from scratch is a Herculean Task, and incredibly expensive.  Enough evidence was produced to call the applicants’ data into question, but once again amateur endeavour appears to carry less weight than expensively produced and fancily presented greenwash.

The PI report requires three new/updated strategies that must be provided by the Airport Operator before they can progress past the 18 million passenger limit.

The first of these is a long-term noise contour reduction strategy. If that strategy is not met as the fleet modernisation does not meet expectations, to achieve compliance with the proposed variations to the noise contours condition, it could be necessary to consider a reduction of flights to meet those obligations. 

This sounds a good plan, but of course you have the issue of how those flights could be reduced.  Slots can’t just be taken back from an airline, so the only solution would appear to be a cut by the Airport Operator in its passenger capacity declaration.

Either solution will not go down well with the airlines, and of course cut income for the airport operator and owner, so we guess it is a wait and see what happens scenario if anything at all.

The Operator also must provide a new Transport Plan, to cut the amount of vehicle use across the airport site. 

The third item is an updated Carbon Reduction Strategy.  As this is just for the buildings and general operations on the airport site, and not for aircraft movements and road traffic, it may not actually deliver much change.

There also appears to be some confusion in the media, and on our Facebook sites about what this approval actually brings.  All the developments listed in the original application have been delivered.  There will be no new roadworks or multi-storey car parks built.  The only part not delivered is a short taxiway extension to the East, which the applicant now deems not required.  This approval is primarily for the passenger cap extension, the new noise contours, and some minor issues with the car parks. 

We hope this clarifies what actually was approved.                

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