‘Pontius Pilate’ move sees Luton airport expansion plans backed by government

London Luton Airport
London Luton Airport

The expansion of London Luton Airport will now take flight after the government backed plans today.

A raft of upgrades were agreed by Luton Borough Council in December, but government communities secretary Eric Pickles was asked to review the decision.

Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning had written to Mr Pickles to request that the decision be called in, on the basis that the people who would suffer the most from the increase in flights and traffic would be those in his constituency, as well as Stevenage and surrounding areas.

But the secretary of state has now given consent to the plans which will take the airport’s capacity from 12 million to 18 million passengers a year.

Michael Nidd, secretary of the London Luton Airport Town and Village Community Committee, described Mr Pickles’ move as a ‘passable imitation of Pontius Pilate’.

Mr Nidd, who lives in Piccotts End, said: “To have denied the many communities adversely affected by the airport’s expansion the thorough examination of the proposals, and the many assumptions and assertions on which it is based, by the independent Planning Inspectorate is, in the politest of terms, shameful.”

Countryside campaigning group CPRE Hertfordshire has also reacted to the news with dismay.

The group’s director Kevin FitzGerald said: “This huge increase in flights will be another nail in the coffin of the tranquillity of the countryside and the quality of life of residents in north and west Hertfordshire.

“No wonder people think that the term ‘localism’ is a sick joke. This inconsistency in the secretary of state’s decisions is ludicrous.”

The biggest change will be a vast expansion of the airport terminal, which will be remodelled and modernised.

Once complete it will be equipped with up to 20 security passenger screening lanes, 15 immigration passenger screening lanes, increased retail, catering, circulation and seating areas and a new two storey pier.

A number of changes will also be made around the terminal.

A new parallel taxiway will be built to increase the capacity of the existing runway for an additional six million passengers a year.

The road from the Holiday Inn Roundabout will be dueled and a newly configured road system will be put in place to the front of the terminal area.

A new multi-storey car park will also be built.

Glyn Jones, airport managing director, said: “We are delighted that after a thorough process, the council can proceed to grant planning permission for London Luton.

“We see this as a real vote of confidence in the airport and its future, delivering a better experience for our passengers in the years to come.”