Bim Afolami MP held a debate in Westminster Hall this morning (9th January) on Luton Airport expansion, in response to the airport’s announcement last month that it plans to more than double its passenger numbers to 38 million per annum. The debate was attended by Paul Maynard MP, a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Transport.
Mr Afolami explained to the Minister and others present that the number of passengers per year has increased by 70% over the last seven years, and that noise complaints have increase 22-fold over the last two years alone. Night flights have increased by 25% in the last two years, and traffic through neighbouring villages is a worsening problem. He described how Luton is an unsuitable and unsustainable airport for expansion of such magnitude.
Mr Afolami highlighted the conflict of interest that exists as the airport is owned by London Luton Airport Ltd on behalf of Luton Borough Council, which is currently the authority responsible for setting passenger limits.
Mr Afolami said in his speech: “Luton Borough Council’s ownership of Luton airport, which generated a net profit of roughly £47 million in the last financial year, coupled with the huge increase in flight noise for many thousands of my constituents and across Hertfordshire, as I have already demonstrated, as well as with the huge increase in passenger numbers, leaves many of my constituents feeling that Luton Borough Council has one real interest: growing passenger numbers and therefore revenue for its airport. That interest has been pursued without any real consideration for the significant negative impacts on the people of Hertfordshire that I have outlined here today. As one of my constituents put it to me, Bedfordshire gets the gain, and Hertfordshire gets the pain.”
Following Mr Afolami’s speech, Mr Maynard confirmed on behalf of the Government that the proposed expansion will be a decision taken by the Planning Inspectorate with reference back to the Secretary of State, and therefore that it will not fall to Luton Borough Council to approve the decision.
After the debate, Mr Afolami said: “I am very pleased to have had such a considered and helpful response from the Government on this important issue. I have written to the Minister to ask for clarity on exactly how matters will proceed and will continue to monitor the issue closely.”