London Luton Airport Ltd answer The Comet’s questions on airport expansion

PUBLIC exhibitions will be held at four Comet country venues, where people can drop in to see proposals for the expansion of Luton Airport.

The exhibitions will be held in Breachwood Green, Whitwell, Hitchin and Stevenage in February, with a consultation also extended to six weeks, following public pressure. It’s after London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) said it wanted to double the airport’s capacity to 18m passengers per annum.

The process has been criticised by parish councils and North Herts councillor David Barnard. They claim that none of the consultations are accessible to those living in rural villages in the north of the county, including Offley and Lilley.

Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin, has also spoken out about the proposals.

He said: “I shall pay close attention to views expressed during the planned local consultation. I have always argued that expansion plans must be subject to these two tests but the consultation may raise other issues.

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“It was clear that the previous plans to convert Luton into a long haul airport with a jumbo jet a minute disgorging an extra 25 million passengers failed those tests. So I was delighted when it was withdrawn.

“That does not mean we should oppose all expansion outright if environmental and infrastructure problems can be overcome. We need the jobs, business and travel opportunities that Luton can generate. But I am surprised Luton Borough Council and the Airport operator are proposing plans on this scale before they have tackled the massive congestion at the entrance to the airport.”

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The Comet, along with campaign group Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN), put questions to LLAL. Read the response here:

• Q: How is access from the east and west of the airport to be managed?

A: We outlined to the airport’s community consultative committee that our plans will include appropriate road access provision and this will be announced in due course. There are already plans underway to resolve much of the congestion by 2014.

• Q: Are LLAL prepared to pay compensation to those suffering extra noise - including the purchase of their houses?

A: This will be a matter for the concessionaire and it is too early to confirm any further details beyond what the airport operator currently offers to homes affected by noise.

• Q: Is it a conflict of interest that any planning application would be made to LBC?

A: No, the airport is owned by LLAL which is independent of LBC. It is LLAL’s intention to submit a planning application for consideration in or around April 2012, at which time a further statutory consultation will be undertaken by Luton Borough Council, the local planning authority responsible for processing planning applications. The planning committee, which is independent of the council’s Executive, will then make a decision on the application. The council acting as planning authority has a statutory duty to determine in the public interest all planning applications which it receives and there is a comprehensive body of policy and practice which guides this process in all respects. An application for optimisation of the airport will be determined in accordance with proper planning procedures in the normal way.

• Q: How will “being a good neighbour” [to North Herts] be achieved?

A: Throughout the consultation process we are encouraging local residents to feedback their views either online or by attending public events. We want to ensure that we have listened to the local community to ensure that the plans reflect local views. Should the plans come to fruition, there will be wide employment and business opportunities that reach beyond the Luton borders into neighbouring authorities and across the region, and we will do everything we can to minimise noise and other impacts to our neighbours.

• Q: Some councils have said they were not told of plans, and the first they heard about it was on TV. Why were they not consulted first?

A: The airport Consultative Committee (LLACC) first heard of the developing project in October 2011 and then were the first to hear of the forthcoming consultation on January 16, and this committee includes representatives from neighbouring councils, including NHDC and parishes in the North Herts. On January 16, we also wrote to neighbouring councils, neighbouring residents and other organisations.

• Q: The figure given for the number of jobs this will create have been cited as “hugely inflated” by a local campaign group, who say the real figure is closer to just over 400. How was that 6,000 figure reached?

A: This was explained in our announcement on 16th January. Our independent advisors, York Aviation, used existing data from the airport as well as detailed knowledge of similar airport expansion in the UK to arrive at the figure.

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