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London Luton Airport’s plans to ramp up community investment

Luton Rising

4 min read Partner content

London Luton Airport holds a position to be proud of – the most socially impactful airport in the UK. No other UK airport comes close in scale to our community investment.

Through its owner Luton Rising, a Luton Council company, the airport has provided more than £300million to local communities since 1998, supplemented by £180million for vital voluntary, community and charitable organisations. In 2019, 53p per passenger was invested directly in local community causes – equating to 20 times that of any other UK airport.

Being a community airport owner, Luton Rising ensures that the airport’s success also means benefits for local communities.

This unique community investment programme now has an annual budget of approximately £7.4m, funding organisations such as Active Luton which supports leisure, community health, wellbeing and library services.

Around 50 local charities have also been supported, including organisations that assist people in old age, the disabled, tackling mental health and poverty, and victims of crime and domestic abuse.

Additionally, we’re aware that impacts of the airport’s operations extend beyond the boundaries of just the town of Luton itself, which is why Luton Rising also operates a Near Neighbours Fund where residents and community groups in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire can apply for funding.

Often this results in vital community services being able to continue. For instance, in 2019/20, £10,000 was awarded to the Full House Theatre Company to support the Houghton Regis Art Town project to provide theatre and art-based opportunities for children and families in the local area, benefitting 200 people directly. During the same period, 96 young people with complex needs benefitted from a £6,000 grant to train emotional support dogs and up to 5,000 people were able to access essential food parcels through The Need Project thanks to a grant of £7,500 from Luton Rising.

All this community investment feeds into our ongoing support for the Luton 2040 Vision. As community-owned infrastructure, the airport has a crucial role to play helping the council deliver its objectives.

The vision aims to make Luton a UNICEF child-friendly town. This involves all children and young people across Luton having full access to basic needs and services, such as accommodation, with the Council working with partners to reduce educational and health inequalities.

Additionally, Luton intends to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 while improving air quality and the natural environment across the town and supporting the clean growth of green businesses and social enterprises.

Since September 2019, Luton Council has been engaging with partners and residents across the town to bring this vision to life, with the goal being to solidify Luton as a healthy, fair and sustainable town, where everyone can thrive and no one has to live in poverty.

Central to the conversation around the long-term future of Luton, and continued social impact the airport provides for the town, is the ongoing application for Development Consent to expand London Luton Airport to 32 million passengers per year.

Should this be accepted, and revenues grow with expansion of the airport, Luton Rising intends that its local and community investments will grow beyond the legacy pro-rata allocation.

Alongside the continuation of our existing funding programmes, a new Community First fund will provide an additional £1 for every additional passenger above the passenger cap at the time that the application for development consent is approved. This means Community First has the potential to raise up to an additional £13million per year, with 40% of that to be ringfenced for investment in Near Neighbourhood areas affected by the operations of the airport.

Analysis of the impact on socio-economic welfare benefit suggests that, in Luton, the proposed development results in a £322 million benefit to users over the 60-year appraisal period. Following the expansion of capacity, forecasts from Oxford Economics suggest that London Luton Airport’s contribution to UK GDP would grow by around £1.5bn annually, and reach £3.3 billion a year by 2043 (in 2019 prices).

We’re clear that expansion should not be at the expense of the local environment. To help address this, we will impose rigorous environmental constraints through a trailblazing initiative called the Green Controlled Growth (GCG) Framework. The first proposal of its kind to be brought forward, GCG will be legally binding and involve the independent monitoring of the airport operations’ air quality, noise, road traffic and carbon emissions. Ultimately, if limits are breached, growth of the airport would stop until the issue is addressed.

This ties in with Luton Council’s plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. We recognise our role in helping to address contribution to climate change from carbon emissions and to support the Council’s ambitions.

Luton Rising has already made a significant positive impact on local communities in Luton and its near neighbours. Our plans for expanding the airport will allow this to go further than ever before, while not letting growth come at the expense of the environment and climate.

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