On the 13th of July we took our place on the TEAM meeting of the London Luton Airport Consultative Committee.
We heard the stark realities facing the airport operator, London Luton Airport Operations Ltd, in these unprecedented times, and for the Covid-19 haunted future years.
The two senior officers spoke about the fall in passenger throughput for April-June – 4.9 million in 2019 to just 110,000 this year. They said that they were now estimating a 30% passenger figure for this year, which would be circa 5.4 million, but on the first quarter figures, this was still all very much supposition. They spoke with passion of putting the whole operation into survival mode, the need to cease all but necessary expenditure, and that all but operationally crucial staff are still furloughed.
We then however had the revelation that despite the current circumstances, they were pressing ahead with both their outstanding Planning Applications. These are both to reverse binding conditions set out as part of their permission to expand previously. Condition 10 was in relation to airport noise, but due to the reckless pursuit of increased traffic for extra income by the operator, in collusion with the owner Luton Borough Council, this has been breached for the past three summers, and they now have applied to ignore it for the next five years.
The other was the one that capped passenger limits at 18 million per annum, which they now want to extend to 19 million.
For a company in “survival mode”, we find the expense on this to be rather strange. Both are now no longer required, as the current operations are well within those limits, and can now be responsibly controlled to stay there. The answer given was that they were needed to meet all circumstances for growth when Covid is finally defeated.
Our opinion is that the owner Luton Borough Council has advised them to continue the process, as they’ve never denied an application by the operator in the past, they won’t start now as it’s in their interests to ignore the impacts these will have on local residents, as the money they might bring is far more important.
The next report we heard was from Luton Borough Council’s airport company, London Luton Airport Ltd’s, representative. We listened – somewhat amazed – as we were told that the Development Consent Order was being completely rewritten (£30 million wasted on the previous attempt), to make the airport the most environmentally inclusive and sustainable in the world, meeting all Paris agreement targets and all other climate issues, and to be a blue print for every airport worldwide. It would appear that the fact that Helsinki airport has been carbon neutral for some time has slipped the notice of the LLAL team and their expensive consultants, or are those consultants copying the Helsinki and other models, but pricing them as their own?
We were then told that land ownership issues were still holding up the final agreements being signed for their Terminal 2 access road, though the Council still insists on sticking to its code word for this, Century Park access road. We know that despite their pleas of poverty, and the culling of jobs and services. The Council still require borrowing another £124 million for this road, with the first finance due in 2021, then even more to update it to a dual carriageway at some point in the future. This will be financed, plus interest, by LLAL paying them back from the concession income from passengers through the airport. Passenger numbers are dropping, but the loans those numbers service is growing; basic mathematics and economics would show how flawed that process is?
The airport operator mentioned that airports around the world are ALL in survival mode. They have all cut expenditure to preserve jobs and investors’ equity; the only one that is bucking the trend is Luton Airport, or to be precise their owner Luton Borough Council. To them, the spending of millions of pounds while cutting jobs, essential services and continually pleading poverty is the perfectly acceptable option.
They are the prime example of a phrase which has been born in this Covid era. “Strategic ignorance asserted to evade culpability”.
We know our actions are causing the problem, but we’ll still blame it on everyone else, and carry on regardless.
Make Luton Borough Council Culpable – Stop Luton Airport Expansion