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London Luton Airport’s plans for sustainable expansion

Luton Rising

4 min read Partner content

London Luton Airport is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure in the country – it directly employs 10,900 people and it’s the UK’s fifth busiest airport welcoming millions of passengers every year.

But it’s also the most socially impactful airport in the country, providing more than £300 million to local communities since 1998, and supplemented by £180 million for vital voluntary, community and charitable organisations, including £7.4 million for community investment projects in 2022 alone. In 2019, 53p was invested directly in local community causes – equating to 20 times that of any other UK airport.

As demand for travel continues to grow post-pandemic, we need to be able to facilitate this, and this provides us with the opportunity to build upon these amazing figures. That’s why we’re proposing to expand the airport and increase the number of people travelling through the airport from 18 million passengers per year to 32 million per year by 2045 to help meet this increase in demand. This demand also translates into social impact, as expanding the airport will create a further 4,400 jobs in Luton alone and 6,100 new jobs supported across the Three Counties. Furthermore, our community investment program has the potential to raise up to an additional £13 million per year – an extra £1 for every additional passenger travelling through the airport because of the proposed expansion.

Moreover, all of this will be achieved without the creation of a new runway, ensuring that we use our airport efficiently while expanding sustainably.

Airport expansion will drive high-quality and well-paid jobs while delivering strong, thriving and resilient communities across Luton and its surrounding areas – what’s important is to ensure expansion is balanced with our sustainable commitments while minimising environmental impacts. We firmly believe there is a way to grow an airport in a sustainably responsible way.

That’s why we have proposed a Green Controlled Growth (GCG) framework – the first of its kind – to ensure the airport’s ground operations expand in a sustainable way, by placing independently monitored, legally binding limits on growth.

Our unique GCG framework proposes the adoption of thresholds that would apply to air quality, carbon emissions from airport ground operations, the noise from aircraft, and the proportion of sustainable transport used by passengers and those working at the airport.

Beyond the GCG framework, carbon emissions will be minimised through a combination of adaptations to ground operations, road traffic, and aviation. This includes the provision of electric vehicle charging points, proposals to generate our own clean energy on site, enabling the airport to become ready to supply sustainable aviation fuel at scale, and preparing the airport to facilitate the future introduction of electric aircraft.

We’re committed to our GCG framework and ancillary sustainability efforts not just to minimise environmental impacts while expanding the airport, but also to support Luton Borough Council’s ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.

We’re already delivering for the future too – our Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit) has the capacity to carry up to 2,750 people per hour and opened in March this year, replacing the shuttle buses from Luton Airport Parkway train station. This innovative system provides a low carbon transport alternative for passengers and allows people to travel to the Airport in around four minutes from Parkway station and 32 minutes from London St Pancras. The DART has already saved more than twenty years of total journey time for users, and the system surpassed its millionth passenger mark less than 150 days after opening.

We are also investigating securing a renewable energy supply for the electric-powered Luton DART and providing improved bus and coach facilities within the airport itself to minimise the number of vehicles travelling to and from the airport and will continue to work with operators to facilitate improved services.

To grow our airport sustainably and deliver tangible economic and social benefits for the people of Luton and its surrounding areas, we're willing to hold ourselves to these standards. This is exactly why we’ve put the unique GCG framework in place and we’re committed to supporting Luton Borough Council’s 2040 carbon neutrality target which we recognise must be achieved by reducing carbon emissions.

Luton Rising is committed to ensuring that our passengers can continue to make the most of travel in an increasingly globalised world. But as the demand for air travel recovers after the pandemic, so does the need for a more sustainable aviation industry. We understand this and have developed our plans for expansion to marry these objectives and deliver sustainable airport expansion.

Above all, our proposals for the expansion of London Luton Airport seek to cement – and build on – our strong record of economic, sustainable, and social value. Far from any lofty ambitions, we are holding ourselves to a standard head and shoulders above the rest to ensure that we deliver sustainable airport expansion for our passengers and the people of Luton and surrounding areas.

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