Biggleswade area gets 'pain and no gain' from Luton Airport flight path decision

'The noise and pollution impact on our area will be huge'

By Joanna Gravett
Friday, 9th July 2021, 11:21 am

Politicians in Chronicle country have spoken out against the progression of a new flight path, which it is claimed will cause residents “all pain” and no gain.

London Luton Airport (LLA) and air traffic controller NATS have chosen a new route for planes arriving into LLA following a public consultation launched last year.

Changes are being planned because there were too many planes for Stansted and LLA ‘stacking’ (circling) in the same area before landing, and potential safety concerns were raised.

London Luton Airport.

However, politicians allege that the chosen route, Option 1 of two choices, was the worst outcome for residents in the Biggleswade and Potton area.

Central Beds and Potton Town Councillor, Adam Zerny, claimed: “Last autumn Luton Airport proposed new flight paths, which would see up to 300 flights per day.

“The noise and pollution impact on our area will be huge, and by its own admission, the airport acknowledges: ‘The noise and pollution impact is likely to be significant’. More than 2,400 objections were received, mostly about noise, environment and air quality. 90 per cent did not want any of the proposed options.”

Luton Airport currently shares arrival routes and two holds with Stansted, a situation which has been described as “unsustainable” due to both airports’ size, and a new aircraft hold is planned in the St Neots and Huntingdon area, to ensure routes don’t clash with Stansted.

Flight path Option 1 focuses on higher altitude flights above 5,000ft, but Cllr Zerny argued that even flights above 20,000 feet are clearly audible.

He added: “The consultation was a sham. The public rightly don’t want flight paths right over them but despite the negative feedback, the airport are going to do it anyway. An independent regulator should be investigating the proposals.”

Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire, told the Chronicle: “It’s very disappointing, isn’t it.

“We know it’s good for LLA and we know it’s good for Luton Borough Council, but I spent time working with other local groups and other MPs, for example, Lib Dem MP for St Albans Daisy Cooper, and I don’t feel that the environmental impact has been assessed correctly.

“I don’t feel that the others [upon whom it will have an impact] are getting a fair shot. That’s why it’s so important that the minister recognises the conflict of interest.

“Because of that expansion they have to change flight paths and my constituents will get air pollution and noise pollution, and that’s just not right. All the gains go to Luton and the pain goes to surrounding constituents.”

Mr Fuller told the newspaper that if Option 1 goes ahead, then the government should provide some form of financial compensation for councils whose areas are negatively impacted.

Lee Boulton, head of airspace development for NATS, said: “We listened carefully from the start of the consultation to the feedback we were getting, and provided more information as we went along, particularly on the hold and why we need it.

“I sincerely hope that people will see our genuine effort to respond to their concerns and I believe the adjustments we are making will make a real and positive difference.

“It was clear from the outset that people’s two main concerns were around the need for, and position of, the new hold; and their preference for dispersion of flights under Option 1, rather than our preference for Option 2, which offered the very accurate use of two alternating routes.

“In responding to those, other more indirect concerns have also been addressed, as we set out last week in the feedback report.”

The final design will now be submitted for approval to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in line with the airspace change process. Subject to CAA regulatory approval, the proposal would come into effect no earlier than February 2022.