Stevenage council backs Luton Airport expansion

With a planning application imminent for the expansion of Luton Airport, Stevenage Borough Council has come out in favour of the scheme, despite the negative impacts of more aircraft noise and traffic on residents.

At last week’s full council meeting, a motion was passed in support of the plans on the grounds “they will further boost the local economy and enhance the travelling experience of passengers.”

The council has not been able to get figures for the number of residents working at the airport, it admitted.

An application to reconfigure the site to double passenger capacity to 18 million a year is expected to be submitted to airport owners Luton Borough Council (LBC) on November 19 by London Luton Airport Ltd, an LBC-run company.

Deputy leader of SBC, John Gardner, who moved the motion, said the airport “is vital to the region and the sub-region”.

“We do understand the commercial necessity of expanding the airport within limits. It would be in line with government policy – provided the planning is executed in a suitable way it’s unlikely to be called in.”

He added there were continued concerns over noise and traffic increases however, as more planes would cross the skies above the town and more traffic would move along the A1(M) and A505 to and from Luton.

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A case to mitigate this will be put to both the applicant and planning authority, the council agreed.

The Stevenage Lib Dems opposed the motion - arguing any increase in aircraft noise for residents was unacceptable.

“The motion committed SBC – which has no power in the issue – to being supportive towards the expansion proposals,” Chells councillor Robin Parker said.

“For my residents no increase in Luton Airport capacity or noise levels is acceptable. I will not attempt to justify extra noise pollution with vague promises of local benefits by local growth.”

Meanwhile, neighbouring towns continue to oppose the expansion plans.

Hitchin Forum has written to the aiport owner and operator, as part of a consultation which finished last week.

Chairman Mike Clarke said: “Expansion threatens to exacerbate congestion on the A505 through Hitchin. We are concerned that this may not readily be dealt with in an environmentally acceptable fashion, but may threaten the town and its green belt to the south and west.”

He added: “Luton Airport is owned by Luton Borough Council, which receives a substantial contribution to its finances every year from the airport.

“It is wholly wrong that any planning application should also be decided by LBC, which has a clear and unacceptable conflict of interest.”