Luton Airport expansion plan not included on government-backed shortlist

Luton Airport

Luton Airport - Credit: Archant

The proposed expansion of Luton Airport has suffered a double blow by not being included in a government-backed shortlist, with the airport also being told that the current planning application could be referred to the secretary of state.

The Comet has previously reported that an independent barrister has been appointed to review a planning application to expand Luton Airport, which was deferred last month but is due to be discussed tomorrow (Friday).

But now the Department for Communities and Local Government, on behalf of the secretary of state, has asked Luton Borough Council (LBC), which owns the facility through London Luton Airport Operations Ltd, to not grant the application permission at the meeting.

The directive has been issued to enable the secretary of state to consider whether the application should be referred to him for determination.

It does not prevent LBC from considering the application, which seeks to increase passenger capacity from 12 million to 18 million a year, but any decision is subject to the matter being called in by the Government.

On Tuesday, the Airports Commission, an independent panel asked by the government to look into potential expansion, released an interim report which shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick for runways expansions, but not Luton.

The report does suggest the need for the Government to develop a strategy for motorway access to Luton, “with a particular view to examining the

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case for enhancements to M1 Junction 10A”. This was welcomed by London Luton Airport Operations Ltd.

The Comet, with Hitchin MP Peter Lilley, Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland and MP for North East Hertfordshire Oliver Heald, has campaigned for an independent review and for the Government to take the decision out of LBC’s hands.

Mr McPartland said: “The appointment of a QC is a welcome development, but Luton Borough Council should recognise that the decision on whether to expand the airport, which they own, should be taken by a fully independent body.

“I am pleased we have persuaded the government to issue an Article 25 notice, which means planning permission cannot be granted without the secretary of state’s permission. This is an important first step in having the planning application fully scrutinised by an independent body in a full public inquiry.”

Hertfordshire county councillor Richard Thake, who wrote to LBC outlining his concerns, requested the application be delayed from being taken to the planning control committee and asked the council to seek legal advice to confirm that LBC is the appropriate planning authority to determine the application.

Cllr Thake, who is also a member of North Herts District Council, said: “I have concerns over the ground access and the environmental impact. The report that was prepared for the previous planning meeting was quite frankly appalling and I raised concerns over that. I have written to LBC and told them my concerns and said that I think the application needs to be made by an independent person.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Sharon Eckman added: “It would appear the delay may also be for them to consider how best to deal with the number of objections and level of concern shown by the local population.”