plane landing

Datchworth Parish Council objects to latest planning application by Luton Airport

Datchworth Parish Council have written to Luton Borough Council to object to Luton Airports’ latest planning application with the following letter:
Application: 21/00031/VARCON Luton Airport, Luton
Variation of Conditions 8, 10, 22, 24, and 28 to Planning Permission 15/00950 to accommodate 19 million passengers per annum and to amend day and night noise contours.
Datchworth Parish Council wishes to object to the above planning application which seeks to increase the Airport capacity and reduce controls on aircraft noise. If allowed, it will have a detrimental effect on the residents of this parish.
We consider the proposed increase from 18 million passengers to 19 million is unjustified and we strongly oppose it.
We note Luton Airport has increased night flights six-fold since 2013, up from 500 to 3,000. This planning application wants to go even further: the biggest noise increase it’s asking for is at night. The WHO links night noise to poor health. Datchworth is located under the Eastbound departure flight paths. Our residents reported excessive noise disturbance, day and night, last year from low flying aircraft. This proposed expansion would result in significantly worse outcomes for them.
The 2013 permission set limits on passengers and noise. Luton Airport has yet to deliver the mitigation for noise that it committed to and since 2017 has further breached those limits in violation of Condition 10 (noise contours). The Airport has failed in recent years to “manage the effect” of its growth and noise management has failed. No credible plan has been put forward to reduce the sounds. Until Luton Airport can demonstrate that it can operate at 18 mppa within extant noise limits, further capacity growth is unwarranted and unjustifiable.
We consider the plans to be incomplete and poorly-founded. The current states of both the airline and aircraft industries show no signs of supporting an early post-Covid recovery and the general Covid-driven economic malaise is having a major negative impact on air travel. Following the current depression in aircraft manufacture, we do not believe quieter and cleaner craft will be available within the timeframe envisaged; we understand that the current latest A321neo aircraft are actually measured as being noisier. Furthermore, replacement of noisier aircraft to quieter models, is beyond the control of the Airport operators and with the current pressures on airlines‘ budgets is likely to take longer, thereby further increasing the number of properties affected by noise pollution. Mitigations employed to-date have neither improved nor stopped the noise contour breaches. The recent reduction is only due to the decrease in passenger numbers arising from effects of the pandemic. It is clear that a reduction in passenger numbers is what is required until the Airport has delivered provable mitigations.
Environmental Impact Statement indicates higher total CO2 emissions for every year from 2019 and these are based on estimates of older aircraft types which may be challenged, notwithstanding the lack of evidence regarding future economic development. Last year the Committee on Climate Change made clear that aviation growth targets must be at least halved to achieve net zero. Luton Airport has so far only managed to reduce it emissions by 0.9%, and cannot directly control carbon emissions from passenger journeys or aircraft. The Airport has had seven years of accelerated capacity growth and benefited commercially from that; now it needs to rebalance and focus upon environmental responsibility. Since Luton Borough Council has declared a Climate Emergency, to ignore such during decision-making regarding the Airport (a major source of carbon emissions) could be seen to be at odds with itself. This planning application is unsustainable and not in line with achieving net zero by 2050 or Luton’s own declaration of a Climate Emergency.
Offsetting a carbon footprint by LED lighting and similar well-proved methods should certainly be pursued as sensible and proportionate (and arguably actions for any sound commercial enterprise to take to reduce operating costs) but they do not change at all the fact that more flights will cause more pollution until the advent of new generation aircraft (of which there is no detail as to likely impact and improvement); low energy lighting around the Airport is praiseworthy but it doesn’t positively impact the standard of life under the flightpath.
Most concerning of all is that it is stated that the application will be decided by the Council’s Planning Committee, yet the Council has a prima facie conflict of interest by being both the owner and planning authority for the Airport. This reinforces previous criticism of inadequate clarity and transparency in Council decision-making in relation to the Airport.
In summary, the variation of conditions proposed would have adverse effects on the community of Datchworth Parish by virtue of noise generation and increased CO2 emissions, in the absence of evidence of economic benefits and optimistic estimates of aircraft replacement.