Luton Airport Operators Application for a variation to “Condition 10”
The Operators at Luton Airport (LLAOL) were granted planning permission by Luton Borough Council (LBC) in 2013 for an expansion programme to accommodate 18 million passengers per year in 2028. This permission was granted with a whole raft of conditions, some of which related to noise, and one in particular limiting the maximum “average” noise during a 16 hour day, or an 8 hour night. This condition – via a confusing saga of renumbering as other conditions have been amended – is now known as “Condition 10”.
In the summer of 2017 the maximum permitted area of the night noise contour was exceeded – there were too many noisy night flights, and the airport operators were obliged to introduce a number of measures to reduce the number of aircraft movements during the night period, 2300 – 0700. Some of these restrictions were extremely unwelcome to the Business Jet operators, who seek 24 hour operations, arriving and departing as and when clients require.
The measures proved to be inadequate, and the night noise contour was again exceeded in the summer of 2018.The airport operator has blamed this breach on the late arrival of aircraft scheduled to arrive in the day time period, but delayed. What they fail to say is that they operated exactly at their daytime noise limit during the summer of 2018, and so if those flights had not been delayed in the numbers that they were, the airport would have been in breach of the daytime noise contour limit as well.
In the spring of 2019 the airport operator (LLAOL) submitted an application to its owners, Luton Borough Council, for a “variation” to condition 10, to last for 5 years. (By which time they hope to have more, quieter, jets – and in any event there might be a whole new suite of conditions in place by then, covering expansion to 32M passengers per annum)
“This application now seeks to formalise a position whereby breaches are effectively permitted for a number of years” –are the words used by Luton Borough Councils own independent noise consultants – Cole Jarman – to summarise their assessment of the application for the variation in May 2019.
The application to vary the planning condition – the purpose of which was to “protect residential amenity” will be open for public comment on Luton Borough Councils planning portal until 12th September 2019.
STAQS believes that the breach of the noise control condition can be attributed entirely to the mismanagement of the connection between noise from the current generation of aircraft, and the growth in the number of available flights. Why should residents on the ground be subjected to increased noise levels caused by mismanagement of airport growth? STAQS is strongly opposed to the granting of any variation to the original planning condition.
Did you know that Luton Airport has recently revised its flight path, and many people's houses sit close by or underneath?
Did you know that Luton Airport is in the midst of an aggressive expansion campaign – with a 50% increase in the number of flights anticipated by 2020?
Why the sudden increase in aeroplane noise?
In late 2015, Luton Airport launched a revised flight path utilising RNAV technology. RNAV enables the departing aeroplanes to track a much narrower band, which is directly above parts of North St Albans, Jersey Farm and Sandridge.
Previously, such areas were subjected to occasional aircraft noise, however, since the implementation of RNAV and the growth of Luton airport, noise in these areas has, and will, become part of daily life.
The prevailing Westerly wind means that aircraft fly this revised route approximately 75-85% of the time. When the wind is in the other direction, however, you may notice fewer flights. .
Living under a flightpath
The implications of living under a flight path are well documented and can be life-changing:
St Albans Quieter Skies – STAQS – is a group of residents concerned about noise pollution from aircraft that use the corridor between St.Albans and Harpenden. Most of these aircraft are departing London Luton Airport, taking off into the prevailing westerly winds but then turning back en route to destinations in northern and eastern Europe. The group was formed following a public meeting in September 2016, following months of unprecedented noise across the area throughout the summer.
Very few of us had any prior knowledge of aircraft routes and operational procedures. It has been a steep learning curve, but we discovered how the sudden increase in air traffic was the consequence of two significant factors.
The first of these was the introduction by Luton Airport of changes to the departure route. This required aircraft to use a GPS based technology called RNAV to fly the aircraft more precisely than ever before along a theoretical “motorway in the sky” towards a navigational beacon near Brookmans Park.
Previously, pilots had flown this route in the traditional way which introduced a degree of variability in the tracks flown, RNAV lets a computer fly the plane, and so the track keeping is more precise but more annoying to those on the ground.
Coupled with this change, Luton Airport has been achieving unprecedented growth. Plans originally approved in 2013 to grow the airport towards 18 million passengers per year in 2028 were in full swing and the airport has continued to experience annual growth of between 10% and 20%. While this is a major boost for the revenue of the Airport and consequently its owners, Luton Borough Council, it has almost all been achieved by increased flights along the routes to central and eastern Europe, which, for the 70% of the time when the wind blows from the west, requires them to fly this route.
Traffic has increased by 75% since 2013 – the planes have got larger to accommodate more passengers, which means they have got louder, and the average altitude has got lower.
Many residents over flown in this corridor now feel that they are carrying an unreasonable proportion of the noise being generated by flights from the airport. Luton Airport operates 24 hours a day, and has a considerable number of night flights carrying passengers and cargo.
We are very proud of the fact that we have as members elected representatives from all three main political parties working together for the benefit of the community. We understand that the management of a congested airspace is complex, especially when safety has to be the number one priority. However, the noise burden now being borne by the residents over flown is unreasonable, and we seek to work with our political representatives, airspace regulators, and the airport operators in order to secure a more equitable solution.
Stay informed – join STAQS
Sign up to STAQS! St Albans Quieter Skies (STAQS) is a campaign group representing residents of Sandridge, Jersey Farm, Marshalswick, North St Albans and Wheathampstead.
Chaired by Sharon Hollingsworth, the group has held a number of recent meetings researching why the area has become so badly affected by the issue, and exploring options that might provide some relief in the future.
STAQS was recently accepted as a member of the London Luton Airport Consultative Committee (LLACC) and is seeking input from local residents.
If you are affected by the noise you are invited to join STAQS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please ensure you share this information with your neighbours. Failing to act now could see St Albans blighted by aeroplane noise and pollution for years to come. Remember, if you are disturbed by a noisy plane, complain! .