Responding to the Government White Paper on the Future of Air Transport, Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden said: “Local residents may have been relieved that the government has abandoned the proposal on which they consulted for a new, possibly re-aligned, long runway at Luton. However that relief will turn to resentment and possible legal action since the government appears to have given the go-ahead to a proposal, on which they did not consult, for an even longer runway which will bring over 20 million extra passengers through Luton Airport.”
The government consultation document originally proposed a new long runway with the old runway converted into a taxiway. Now they propose to allow the Luton Airport operator to increase the existing runway by more than a kilometre (to an even greater length than that proposed in the consultation document) and to make ‘maximum use‘ of this extra capacity. This will handle large jumbo jets and increase potential throughput to 30 million passengers a year.
Peter Lilley said: “This is an extraordinary decision. The government consultation document showed that if new runways were built at Stansted and Heathrow there would be no need to expand Luton like this. They forecast that given new runways at Stansted and Heathrow the number of passengers using Luton would only be about 16 million by the year 2030.
“Now the government is flatly contradicting this. The new White Papers says ‘forecasts suggest that there would be sufficient demand to justify expansion of Luton to the potential of a single runway – say about 30 million passengers per annum and 240,000 air traffic movements – in the period up to 2030, even with two new runways at other south-east airports‘. I shall be challenging Ministers to justify this completely unsubstantiated new forecast.
“I shall be working with Limit Luton Alliance, LADACAN, North Herts District Council and Hertfordshire County Council to see whether we can challenge the legality of the government‘s plans to approve an expansion which was not explicitly included in the consultation document. I shall also be examining the government‘s plans to introduce new rules which are supposed to subject air transport growth ‘to stringent limits on the area affected by aircraft noise‘ and the new regime for limiting air pollution to see whether these can be used to restrict growth at Luton to manageable proportions.
“The government acknowledge that growth of the airport would contribute to pressures on the road network but propose no additional capacity to plans already announced for the M1 and M25. Likewise they endorse the Strategic Rail Authority‘s view that the planned enhancement of Thameslink would be sufficient to support the traffic generated by this massive expansion of Luton. This is grotesquely complacent. Commuters will rapidly fill up the proposed longer trains on Thameslink and in practice the bulk of the more than 20 million extra passengers expected at Luton will have to come by road. Hertfordshire‘s roads simply cannot cope.”