A marathon eight-hour council meeting resulted in the London Luton Airport expansion being approved by Luton Borough Council on Friday.
The plans to increase passengers from 12 million to 18 million a year will now be reviewed by the Department for Communities and Local Government to see whether the application needs to be determined by the Secretary of State or if the council can proceed to issue consent.
The council’s impartiality was challenged because it owns all of the shares in the airport, although London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) owns the airport infrastructure.
Glyn Jones, managing director of the airport said after the decision: “We have committed to developing an airport which everyone in the local area will be proud of, and passengers from all over the world will enjoy visiting.
“In the year of our 75th Anniversary this is an exciting milestone for all of us at the airport, the local area, and the millions of passengers who use us for business travel, to visit friends and family or to get away on holiday.”
Just six of the development control committee’s 11 members attended the meeting, which had already been postponed once after Herts County Council demanded a second, impartial, legal opinion on Luton council’s suitability to make the decision.
Lib Dem Councillor David Franks was present on Friday but left before the decision was made as he had a conflict of interests.
Other councillors absent from the meeting included the Labour Councillor for Luton South, Amy O’Callaghan, who was away for pre-booked Christmas holidays.
After presentations about the airport throughout the morning, 37 objectors from local town and parish councils, campaign groups and private individuals spoke of their serious concerns about the proposals.
Their main worries included increased noise levels, a disproportionate number of additional flights in the late evening and early morning, climate change and global warming worsened by the plans and fears that increased particulates and night noise could damage health.
In total the council has received 455 objections and 43 representations in support of the application, which involves construction of a multi- storey car park, road layout changes and taxiway extensions.
Andrew Lambourne from campaign group Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion (HALE) said: “It takes courage for a councillor to stand up and say to their planning advisers – ‘You need to do more to protect the quality of life of our residents.’ Sadly, none showed that kind of courage – even though we could see that they wanted to.
“The voting process when it case was heart-rending: all the councillors expressed their deep concern over the seriousness and difficulty of the decision they were about to take given on the one hand the need to do right by Luton, and on the other hand the need to do right by the people of Luton. In the end, Luton won – and hence lost.
“Ultimately this was such a big decision that to make it with half the committee absent was simply not democratic – and is another good reason why it should be called in.”
Independent barrister John Steel QC was appointed by the council to review the application prior to Friday’s meeting.
Speaking after the meeting, MP for Luton South, Gavin Shuker, said: “This is a great day for the town, and a much needed boost for our local economy. London Luton has returned over £210m in concession payments to the Council since 1998, and it is good news for local taxpayers that these are set to increase between now and 2031 as the Airport develops.”