Luton Airport expansion must not go ahead without strong protections, says Anne Main

9th January 2018

Anne Main raises concerns about aircraft noise and pays tribute to the work of STAQS and LADACAN. She says Luton Airport expansion must not go ahead unless it can deliver and guarantee strong protections against further noise pollution.

It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I pay a huge tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) for securing this debate so early in his career. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) has said, the issue has been rumbling on for a very long time. I will be brief because we need answers from the Minister.

First, I want to pay tribute to STAQS—St Albans Quieter Skies—which does terrific work on noise pollution, and to LADACAN, the Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise. When I was first elected in 2005 my postbag was largely untroubled by complaints about aircraft noise, but that is not the case now. I accept, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden, the ongoing benefits to business and leisure users of having a good local airport with routes that are efficient and least disruptive to residents. My constituents understand the need for air traffic, but feel that the noise burden is not shared fairly or equally.

There has been a 150% increase in complaints since the RNAV—area navigation—route was introduced in August 2015. The RNAV route dictates that easterly departures are directed in a narrow corridor over north St Albans and Sandridge. That change alone, although well-intentioned, has concentrated the pain of noise felt by residents across the affected district. As my hon. Friend has said, Luton airport is owned by London Luton Airport Ltd on behalf of Luton Borough Council. As my residents would point out, that makes it its own judge and jury.

In 2013, Luton council’s development committee voted to permit capacity expansion to double to 18 million passengers, along with a package of planning conditions designed to mitigate environmental impact. The decision was based on promises that quieter aircraft would be gradually introduced. Everything has happened far faster than projected, and the noise mitigation has not made any difference.

I shall cut my remarks short and simply say that I have visited my constituents’ homes and gardens at different times of the day. There is a calculated noise decibel level by Luton airport’s own noise monitoring, which was taken over a 16-hour day and apparently equates to something between a quiet office and a bedroom. Standing in my constituents’ gardens, that is not the experience of the residents. An average over a 16-hour day was given when noise can be felt in different ways. At 6 o’clock in the morning I am aware of the noise far more than at 10 o’clock in the morning when my washing machine and dishwasher are going. So the average masks the true life experience of residents and it is bogus.

My constituents need to know that something will be done as soon as possible. Expansion cannot go ahead if strong protections against further noise pollution are not deliverable and guaranteed. Luton airport cannot keep on being its own judge and jury.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

I am sorry; my right hon. Friend has made two interventions and I am already cutting my remarks short.

I want the Government to step in and take a keen and active interest in the future development of this airport. Residents who have had the noise monitoring kit cannot accept that 47 decibels is a true reflection of the interruption in their lives, their sleep patterns, and enjoyment of their own gardens. I therefore ask the Minister to take a real interest in this issue and listen to what residents say.

| Hansard

Constituency Map

View St Albans in a larger map

Bangladesh APPG Report

Download the report by the Bangladesh All Party Parliamentary Group: ‘After Rana Plaza’: A report into the readymade garment industry in Bangladesh.

Click here