On Wednesday 6th July, the Inspectors from the Planning Inspectorate held a Pre-Inquiry Meeting in the main Council Chamber at Luton Town Hall.
This meeting was to consider the ongoing management of the case, and arrangements for the inquiry itself. This was to enable the application to be dealt with efficiently and effectively. The agenda listed the seven points that the Inspectors feel are to be the main considerations in the case: –
- The implications of the proposal for meeting the challenge of climate change.
- The effect of noise associated with the proposal on health, quality of life, and the character of the area.
- The effect of the proposal on air quality.
- The effect of the proposal on sustainable transport objectives and transport infrastructure.
- The socio-economic implications of the proposed development.
- Whether the proposed development would be consistent with the Development Plan and other relevant policies.
- The effect of other considerations on the overall planning balance.
Both the applicant London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL), and the planning authority Luton Borough Council (LBC), were represented by phalanxes of legal minds, with both parties led by Queen’s Counsels. The objectors were LADACAN, Campaign for Rural England, St Albans Quiet Skies, and several members of the public from Luton South Ward and Breachwood Green, the two communities blighted by being at opposite ends of the Luton runway.
The Planning Inspectorate has set up an inquiry website for all the relevant documentation: –
Whilst the gist of the meeting was setting the boundaries for the inquiry, we thought two points warranted specific mention.
Point seven listed above, regards the overall planning balance. The LBC representation went to great lengths to ensure that – as this is a planning inquiry – it stuck to those parameters, and not the link between LBC and LLAOL in any other matters. We found that extremely interesting, as the commercial link between the two over the airport is, we feel, crucial to all decisions made by LBC on airport-related matters.
The other point raised by the Inspectors was about the venue for this Inquiry, the main Council Chamber. They referred to the lack of space for display of the large quantities of documentation that both they and other parties involved would require reference to and asked if other more suitable venues could be looked at. LBC (the hosts) advised that an extensive search had been done of local amenities that would provide that space, but none were available at the time/duration of the inquiry. This came as no surprise to us, as – if the Council Chamber is used – it does not cost LBC a penny, whilst an outside venue will only add significantly to the costs. This matter clearly shows that the £600,000 that LBC is already diverting from other budgets to pay for this Inquiry is in fact all for legal and “expert” costs. Which does raise one final point.
LBC already has rooms of Legal Beagles whose jobs are to make sure that every decision LBC makes is indeed legal. So why are huge sums now being spent proving that the decision made by Development Control was all above board?
Did they not provide the correct due diligence, or was that simply ignored by the Dev Con Committee?
September and October will be very interesting months, as that answer is revealed!