Secretaries of State grant London Luton Airport Operations Ltd’s s73 Application to Fly 1million more Passengers per annum

On 13 October 2023 the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities granted an application made under s73 Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by London Luton Airport Operations Limited (‘LLAOL’) to amend planning conditions attached to its planning permission. The grant of consent allows LLAOL to fly an additional one million passengers per annum. The decision followed a 6-week inquiry during 2022. 

The application was called in by the Secretaries of State following a resolution to grant the application having been made by Luton Borough Council. 

The key findings of the Secretaries of State (agreeing with the recommendation of the panel of three inspectors) are as follows. 

On noise: 

‘18.Overall, the Secretaries of State agree with the Panel’s conclusions on noise for the reasons set out in IR15.58-15.62, that no material increases in day or night-time noise would be caused by the proposal, and that in this respect it would accord with part B(v) of Policy LLP6. The proposal would not conflict with paragraph 185(a) of the NPPF with regards to significant adverse effects on health and the quality of life. They further agree that the limited increases in noise and air traffic movements would not cause material harm to the character of the Chilterns AONB. As such, there would be no conflict with Policy LLP29 of the Local Plan or paragraphs 176 and 185(b) of the NPPF. 

19.However, like the Panel, the Secretaries of State consider that noise levels would increase, albeit for a temporary period, leading to further disturbance and annoyance, with some additional dwellings being brought up to the significant observed adverse effect level (SOAEL) threshold. Taking all of these considerations into account, the Secretaries of State conclude that noise generated by the proposal would cause moderate harm to the quality of life of people in the area around London Luton Airport. They attach moderate weight to this harm….’

On Climate change:

‘25.Overall on issues relating to climate change, the Secretaries of State are satisfied that the aviation emissions which would arise from the proposal are not so significant that they would have a material impact on the Government’s ability to meet its climate change targets and budgets (IR15.96), and that the planning obligation and suggested conditions 18 and 19 would provide for a robust series of mechanisms for addressing and reducing ground operations and surface access emissions through the provision of an updated Travel Plan (TP), the Airport Surface Access Strategy, the Updated Sustainability  Strategy and the Carbon Reduction Strategy (IR15.96).

26.The Secretaries of State conclude that the proposal would accord with national and Development Plan policies which seek to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate against climate change, but recognise that there would be an increase in GHG emissions compared to the “without proposal” scenario (IR15.97). For the reasons given in IR15.95-15.97, the Secretaries of State agree with the Panel that higher-level emissions would be a negative aspect of the proposal to be considered in the planning balance, that they would be less than significant and short-term, and are a matter that carries limited weight against the proposal (IR15.97).’

On transport:

‘31.Overall with regard to transport matters, the Secretaries of State agree with the Panel that the proposal would not give rise to significant adverse effects on the operation of the highway network during average peak periods (IR15.146), and they are satisfied that the targets set out in the revised TP are an appropriate means of ensuring that the growth in passenger numbers could be accommodated on the surrounding transport network throughout the year (IR15.147).’

On socio-economic effects:

‘39.Overall, for the reasons given above and in IR15.197-15.200, the Secretaries of State agree with the Panel that there would be a direct relationship between an increase in passenger numbers and increases in both jobs and GVA (IR15.197), and that given the levels of unemployment and deprivation locally, even relatively modest jobs growth would have a particularly important positive economic impact. They conclude that the proposal would accord with LLP Policies LLP6 and LLP13, and that the socio-economic effects carry considerable weight in favour of the proposal (IR15.200).’

The full decision and panel’s report can be found here.

James Strachan KC and Victoria Hutton represented LLAOL instructed by Alistair Paul of Herbert Smith Freehills

John Steel KC represented Luton Borough Council

Richard Wald KC represented a rule 6 party Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise