Transport issues reduced significantly in 2020 as the Coronavirus pandemic curtailed all forms of travel for most of the year. This has continued to be the case for the first half of 2021 too.
Air traffic was down significantly, reducing the incidence of noise pollution in the town substantially. However, this didn’t stop Luton Airport from submitting a planning application to increase air passenger numbers to 19 million from 18 million. The planning application also seeks to remove until 2031 the noise limitations contained in the 2014 planning permission that had already been breached several times in recent years. Many groups and individuals have objected to this application, with a substantial number focusing on the incompatibility of air passenger growth with reducing the effects of climate change too. Separately, the proposed timetable for nearly doubling air passengers at the airport has been pushed out, reflecting, in the airport’s eyes, the desire to be more “sustainable” (whatever they mean by that). Various other initiatives to reduce aircraft noise (such as the re-organisation of airspace in the south east) moved into the “slow lane” in 2020 but we anticipate these will be resurrected in 2021.
Locally, car traffic decreased as people were encouraged to “stay at home”. Furthermore, in order to improve safety in Harpenden, the lower High Street was partially pedestrianised. As the Coronavirus crisis has eased, this has created a lot of debate about the future of this part of the high street, with retailers asking for the road to be reopened and a large number of residents preferring that the roads remain closed. A welcome addition to the town’s car parking facilities are the additional spaces created next to the new leisure centre (albeit that a substantial number are reserved for electric vehicles and are currently underutilised).
The railways were also quiet in 2020 as most commuters worked from home. Whilst rail commuting (particularly into London) has begun to recover, it remains significantly lower than the pre-pandemic levels. The addition of a direct link from London to Luton Airport has now opened but its impact on existing commuter traffic has been minimal.
Locally, 2020 saw a significant increase in cycling and walking as residents made use of the many paths and open spaces that surround Harpenden although the inclement weather made some pathways very challenging to negotiate.
The Society remains committed to the vision set out in the Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan 2018:
“That Harpenden residents are able to walk and cycle around safely and comfortably, and travel is managed via predominantly environmentally friendly, interchangeable methods, with the appropriate quantity and quality of cycle storage and parking provision, in an atmosphere of sustainable growth and significantly reduced pollution.”
To meet these aims, in a post-Coronavirus society, the Society intends to work with our local, district and county councillors and local residents groups to increase the volume of safe cycleways and pedestrian routes in and around the town. In particular, the Society will support appropriate proposals that create a sustainable, long term answer to the question of what to do with the lower High Street that meets the needs of all parties.
Furthermore, the Society will encourage the relevant authorities to implement and update the Harpenden Car Parking Strategy 2017-21 and, in conjunction with this, encourage better policing of anti-social parking, to encourage traffic flows.
The prospective expansion of Luton Airport will continue to occupy the Society in 2021 as the owners continue to promote its 32 million passengers per annum proposal. Whilst the Society does not object to the growth of Luton Airport per se, the complete disregard that the airport’s owners and operators have for the quality of life of its surrounding communities means that the Society has to be vigilant in holding them to account on its past and future environmental commitments.
Luton Town Hall from Sept 27th - Nov 17 2022
Battle plans for the future short term expansion of London Luton’s Airport begins in Luton Council Chambers. The Airport will be represented by James Strachan KC with a team of advisors and witnesses. The Local Planning Authority will be represented by John Steel KC. Leading the opposition for LADACAN will be Richard Wald KC with a team of advisors and witnesses.
Several local groups including the Harpenden Society have also expressed their opposition.
All parties will be presenting their case to a panel of three Inspectors from The Planning Inspectorate. This will last for a gruelling six weeks. After a month or more the inspectors will report their findings to The Planning Inspectorate who will ensure that all legal requirements have been covered and if positive will confirm the decision to announce their decision to The Secretary of State for the Environment. A date for public announcement will then be made. Likely to be April 2023.
If you want to see the documents being used during the inquiry, click here.
If you wish to know exactly what is happening the inquiry will be live streamed. Contact here to find out how.
London Luton Airport (LLA) is situated 7 miles north of Harpenden town centre on the southern edge of Luton. It has grown rapidly in recent years: passenger numbers were 6.2 million in 2000, 8.7 million in 2010 and 18.0 million in 2019. Whilst the airport is easily accessible to Harpenden residents, its growth in recent years has resulted in a significant increase in the downsides associated with airports, namely aircraft noise, air pollution, clogged up local transport networks and, of primary importance presently, climate wrecking CO2 emissions.
Furthermore, because Luton Borough Council (LBC) is conflicted, it both owns the airport (and therefore has a financial interest in its success) and is the planning authority for the airport, the explosive growth in the last decade has resulted in planning conditions that were put in place to safeguard local communities being breached and no enforcement action taken. For example, the LBC planning permission for growth to 18million passengers was conditional upon staging expansion over a period to 2028 which allowed for quieter and lower emission aircraft to be introduced. However, LLA took no notice, and the 18million limit was achieved in 2019.
Strategically, the Society is fully supportive of the Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) 'Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy 2020' which includes 'clean air for all by 2030' yet would be impossible to achieve should LLA expansion plans be realised. Against this background, the Society, working with Bim Afolami MP, local campaigning groups and government agencies, principally the county and district councils, engages with the airport operating company London Luton Airport Operations Lit (LLAOL) and LBC to try to enforce planning conditions and ensure its future plans don't damage our community. Even to delay the process is positive for Harpenden as it allows for the introduction of quieter, lower emissions aircraft.
LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) https://ladacan.org/
Presently, there is one live planning application before LBC and four consultations at various stages of completion.
Application to vary condition 10 of planning permission 15/00950/VARCON
This planning application is intended to regularise breaches of planning conditions established when the airport was granted permission to grow to 18 million passengers by 2028. The planning conditions were put in place to ensure that those places most exposed to increasing aircraft noise as the airport grew would benefit from strict limits on the number of aircraft that could fly and from increasing use of more modern quieter aircraft. These planning conditions have been systematically breached by the airport for the last three years (and no enforcement action has been taken). The planning application seeks to set aside these conditions at least until 2024. Currently, this application is awaiting a decision by LBC. The Society and all other local community groups, Hertfordshire County Council and St Albans District Council have strongly objected to this planning application. It has not been considered by LBC yet and is now expected to be rolled into the planning application below to increase passenger numbers to 19 million per annum.
October 2020 Changes to London Luton Airport Arrivals
This consultation outlines a proposal to separate the Luton and Stansted airport arrival flightpaths. Presently, Luton and Stansted airport arrivals share the same arrivals routes and the same holds. Whilst the proposed separated arrivals flightpaths go over central Bedfordshire, this consultation is relevant to Harpenden residents as includes dispersed or concentrated flightpath options. A concentrated flightpath is similar to the flightpath that was implemented between Harpenden and St Albans in 2016 which has resulted in all westerly departures heading towards eastern Europe following a narrow flight path, which means those within 2km of the flight path hear every aircraft, rather than intermittent aircraft noise as was previously the case with dispersed flightpaths.
Further information about this consultation can be found here: https://consultations.airspacechange.co.uk/london-luton-airport/ad6_luton_arrivals/
An helpful analysis of the consultation can be found on the LADACAN website here: https://ladacan.org/consultation-on-arrivals-flight-paths/
The closing date for the consultation is 5 February 2021.
The Society will be responding to the consultation in due course.
October 2020 ICCAN's emerging view on the future of aviation noise management
ICCAN was created in January 2019, as an impartial, non-statutory body to rebuild trust between airports and their communities.
ICCAN has produced a document which can be accessed here:
which outlines ICCAN's emerging view on the future of aviation noise management, as well as their vision and goals over the next three years.
ICCAN is seeking your feedback on this document via a survey that can be accessed through the link above. The closing date for this consultation is 18 December2020.
The Society will be responding to this consultation in due course.
February 2019 Luton Borough Council as owner of London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) 'FutureLuToN'
This consultation outlines the airport owners plans to grow annual passenger numbers from 18 million to 32 million. The original consultation has closed and LLAL [an LBC owned company] has advised that it is considering the feedback and plans to submit a Development Consent Order to the government in 2021. The Society and all other local community groups, Hertfordshire County Council and St Albans District Council have strongly objected to this proposal, given the detrimental effect such growth will have on our climate and local communities.
The December 2020 Supreme Court decision to allow Heathrow Airport to apply for planning permission for a third runway has consequences for LLA insofar as Ministers have been advised by their Climate Change Committee colleagues that in order to keep emissions within latest Government policy commitments including Net-Zero, then Heathrow should only expand if regional airports contract.
There is also the conundrum that the Heathrow third runway planning application will now dictate the pace, so we need to ensure LLA is unable to advance their development consent application to the Planning Inspectorate until the Heathrow third runway status is decided. This position is several years away and not aided by Heathrow having disbanded their third runway team and a simultaneous plan by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to modernise flight paths across the south of England (FASI-S). This delay again will allow for 100s of quieter, lower emissions aircraft to be introduced.
November 2020 London Luton Airport Operations Limited as operator of the airport pre-consultation on increasing passenger numbers to 19 million
This consultation (which has also closed) outlines the LLA plans to ask LBC l to increase the number of passengers travelling through the airport annually to 19 million in the short-term. In addition, the airport operator is seeking to have the planning conditions referred to above set aside and new weaker noise conditions introduced which would mean noise levels wouldn't reduce until 2027, at the earliest.
As above, the Society and all other local community groups, Hertfordshire County Council and St Albans District Council have strongly objected to this proposal, not least because there's no evidence that passenger numbers will even return to their pre-Covid-19 level (18 million) for the foreseeable future and because of the proposal to weaken the existing noise conditions. This LLA application would, if successful, lead to another c8,000 flights per annum intruding into Harpenden airspace.
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