On Monday February 27th 2023 Luton Rising, aka Luton Borough Council, finally submitted its Development Consent Order (DCO) to government to expand the airport from the present 18 million passengers a year limit to 32 million.
We thought they would be lining up to laud and promote the application on BBC Three Counties Radio. As a key headline story, 3CR ran the item on its Breakfast Show and as the hour-long phone in topic on its following Morning Show. Members of opposition groups spoke on the subject, as did the general public, and other aviation speakers. There was however, one rather glaring absentee to speak – yes, Luton Borough Council/Luton Rising.
Despite 3CR saying they had sent invites to both Luton Rising and Luton Borough Council both declined to put up a spokesperson and provided the usual PR-packed statement. It was clear they didn’t want to answer potentially awkward questions from the host and members of the public with weak answers that they would struggle to give without 24 hours’ notice of the question.
So where was Robin Porter, the CEO of the Council?
Where was Graham Olver, the CEO of Luton Rising?
Where was Councillor Javeria Hussain, the chair of Luton Rising?
Where was Hazel Simmons the Council Leader?
Surely the claimed flagship project that will drive poverty from Luton by 2040, provide thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of income to charity and the Council, should be one to shout from the Town Hall clock tower or will it? Luton Rising has quietly dropped paying the Council any dividend that used to help pay for services due to its perilous financial state. Those dividends are not expected to return any time soon, due to its debts and the write-down of the Dart by its own auditors.
One thing that is certain is that under these plans aircraft movements and road traffic will substantially increase and so will noise and pollution. Noise is being dealt with by a current planning decision to increase the legal noise limits to get around current legally-binding limits, that the airport has already broken on 3 consecutive years and that the Council refused to enforce, as it took its cut of the income the extra noise generated.
Pollution from aircraft isn’t a worry for the Council either, as it has refused to count it under its net zero plans for the town, despite the stench of burnt aviation fuel hanging over much of the town.
This DCO had an original budget of £50 million of public money, but having been rewritten so many times, this has substantially risen. The public expected that either Luton Rising or the Council could have at least been brave enough to stand up and justify that outlay and be open to unscripted questions, but the answer was no.
We think this speaks volumes about the weakness of the case for airport expansion by a council that has refused from day one to listen to public opinion in any meaningful fashion.