Final push in battle to halt airport plan

THE draft master plan, set out by Luton Airport in response to the Government s white paper on air transport, proposes to build a new runway and greatly increase its size and capacity. Within 20 years the airport could be handling up to 30 million passeng

IN just two weeks, the public consultation period for Luton Airport’s expansion will come to an end but Hertfordshire residents are still fighting against the plan.

Campaigners and protesters are making their final charge against the proposed plans, and have organised meetings, a protest and petitions in a plea to get their voices heard.

THE draft master plan, set out by Luton Airport in response to the Government's white paper on air transport, proposes to build a

new runway and greatly increase its size and capacity.

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Within 20 years the airport could be handling up to 30 million passengers a year compared to approximately 7.5 million in 2004.

Many communities in Hertfordshire will feel the effects of living under the flight path and their fears for the future have led to the creation of angry campaign groups.

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Noise, traffic congestion and damage to the environment are the key concerns and groups have been actively publicising their views against airport expansion.

On Saturday a petition was circulated in Hitchin town centre by members of the Hitchin and Harpenden Conservative Association and LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise).

On Tuesday Kimpton Parish Council organised a public meeting which presented information to the community and was attended by Hitchin MP Peter Lilley.

Parish councillor Chris Baker said: "The meeting went very well and we estimate that over 300 people turned up.

"The Kimpton Protection Group is very strong on this issue and there is an emphasis on getting other people involved."

They have set up a facility that enables anyone to say 'No' to Luton Airport expansion, via a text message from their mobile phone.

Simply text 'No' to 63344 and your message will be logged enabling people to contribute to the campaign without moving from their armchairs.

Cllr Baker added: "We really want as many people as possible to get involved and as well as sending text messages, to send letters to Alistair Darling, the transport minister, via Peter Lilley."

Mr Lilley said: "Campaign-ers found that there is not only concern about the potential impact of Luton Airport's plans on our environment but also anger that their so-called master plan goes way beyond what was consulted upon by the Government.

"It is essential that we demonstrate the scale of this opposition to both the operator and the Government by this petition and as many letters as possible to the transport minister.

"I urge people to send their letters via me at the House of Commons and I will see they reach the minister."

Reports from Mr Lilley's office say they have been inundated with signatures and have a pile of petition sheets 6ins high and still growing.

Mr Lilley will also be attending another public meeting, this time organised by the Hitchin Society, on January 20.

It will take place at Christchurch on Bedford Road at 7.30pm and will also be attended by local council representatives.

This morning (Thursday) campaigners gathered at Whiteway Bottom near Kimpton for a countryside protest to publicise how much Green Belt would be lost to an expansion at Luton Airport.

One of the organisers from SLAP (Stop Luton Airport Plan), Marcus Powell, said: "We are lining the valley with our bodies along the boundary where the proposed airport expansion will go.

"This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and we have the Grim Reaper here to represent Luton Airport and all it will be taking from us.

"We'll at least make people grin a bit as we put our message out."

Protest organisers are asking for anybody who loves the countryside to join them in writing to Mr Lilley and Luton Airport.

It is not too late to put your views and concerns forward and LADACAN believe writing letters will be the best contribution to the campaign as Mr Lilley will then present the opposition to Luton Airport expansion to Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for the Department for Transport .

Alternatively the campaign group, SLAP, has a petition running online at www.stop

Consultation will finish on January 27 after which the airport's operators will review their plan before submitting it to the Government and beginning planning applications.

# Pictured are n members of Hitchin and Harpenden Conservative Association, from the left, Walsworth councillor Bernard Lovewell, Hugh and Meta Reeves and county councillor Nigel Brook with a petition in Hitchin last weekend

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