Daisy Cooper, the MP for St Albans, has written to the boss of Luton Airport to object to proposals by the owner Luton Rising to increase passenger numbers to 32 million a year – citing the impact on climate change and public health.
Her opposition to the plans, which came at the end of a public consultation by Luton Rising, also coincided just two days later, on 6 April, with notification by the Secretary of State that an outstanding planning application to increase passenger numbers to 19 million was being ‘called-in’ for review by central government.
Daisy campaigned for more than a year for a public inquiry into the earlier proposal, including leading a debate in the House of Commons supported by Richard Fuller, MP for North East Bedfordshire, and Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden.
At the time, Daisy also raised the “real or perceived conflict of interest” at the heart of the expansion plans whereby Luton Borough Council owns the airport, which is owned at arms’ length by Luton Rising, yet is also the authority responsible for making impartial judgments on planning and enforcement.
In her letter to Graham Oliver, chief executive of Luton Rising, objecting to the latest proposals to increase passenger numbers again to 32 million, Daisy said:
“Fundamentally, I oppose any further expansion of aviation capacity on the grounds that the Committee on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change both strongly recommend urgent measures to reduce demand for air travel.”
Emissions from aviation are growing at a faster rate than any other mode of transport, she pointed out, adding:
“This expansion is simply unconscionable given the threats to our planet and people, and I urge you in the strongest possible terms to abandon these plans.”
Daisy also highlighted the negative health effects of aircraft noise, including high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks, and the increased likelihood of road and occupational accidents in areas of high night-time aircraft noise.
“At a bare minimum, no expansion at all should be allowed until and unless promises on noise reduction are fulfilled, and a demonstrably independent body is established to monitor and report on air noise targets,” she said.
Daisy also criticised the draft Green Controlled Growth (GCG) proposals that Luton Rising included in the recent public consultation.
“This statutory consultation document is meaningless for the purposes of this consultation, as it avoids committing to binding targets for the reduction of noise pollution, improvements in air quality, the reduction of carbon emissions or surface access pollution and congestion.”
About specific elements of the GCG proposals, she wrote:
On aircraft noise:
“I am appalled by these cynical proposals, which purport to consult on aircraft noise targets without actually specifying any actual targets, includes very little detail on what would count as an upper acceptable noise target, and includes a number of ‘get-out clauses’ and scenarios in which future targets can be watered-down, by outlining plans to take advantage of pre-defined excuses for breaching them before they have already been set.”
On the monitoring of air quality levels in the airport area:
“As surface traffic emissions are expected to decrease in the coming years and decades as a result of an increased uptake of electric vehicles and cleaner engines, these draft targets effectively give the airport operator a mandate to increase the levels of pollutants from aircraft as the airport expands.
“In addition the monitoring plan – which will include the locations at which pollutants are measured – is to be specified by the airport operator themselves. This is tantamount to allowing them to mark their own homework. The incentives created by such a system are for the operator to only place monitoring equipment where it produces the most advantageous results.”
On greenhouse gas emissions:
“It is inconceivable that any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ignores the single greatest contributor at an airport – the aircraft themselves. It is both meaningless and insulting to propose that the operator will measure and report on the success or otherwise of carbon emissions reductions on the ground, without including the aircraft which fly from the airport.”
Daisy ended the letter by concluding: “Neither the GCG, nor the business case presented by Luton Rising, can adequately address the serious negative implications of further expansion at Luton Airport. Such an expansion will further increase overall carbon emissions and worsen air quality in the surrounding area; amplify the misery of aircraft noise for the many communities in the flight paths; and put further strain on an already congested road network.
“As well as opposing the expansion plans generally, I am appalled at the cynical and disingenuous way in which the draft GCG proposals have been presented. It is an exemplar of greenwashing and double-speak.”