Luton Airport owners propose to build a new runway 3Km in length 1Km south of the existing shorter runway. The new runway would be built using compulsory purchase of Hertfordshire land and be able for the first time to handle Jumbos and the new monster Airbus 380 which seats up to 600 passengers. In addition they propose to support the additional traffic with new terminals, taxiways, engineering support buildings, etc.
They currently handle 8 million passengers per year and want to quickly expand to 30 million before the 2012 London Olympics.
They are putting forward four distinct possible plans to cope with the expansion, but their consultation document distributed to households shows the layout only for their preferred option, which of course is the one occupying (and destroying) most land and houses, and providing greatest opportunity for yet further expansion later on.
The old, shorter, runway is to remain in place,and it is claimed would be used only for emergencies and during maintenance of the new one, so there would still be only a single operational runway.
This will mean more congestion on roads never built to handle such a large volume and a massive increase in night flights for both passenger and cargo is predicted as the only way to spread the volume out.
The existing runway could be brought back into use, to handle at least the 8 million passengers it copes with now, without any need for further planning permission. Given persmission, it could also lengthened to produce a future capacity of up to 48 million.
Air travel is the least energy-efficient method ever invented for transporting large numbers of people (only tanks and helicopters are worse). It is one of the more important, and fastest-growing, producers of the gases causing the frightening greenhouse effect, which threatens the continued survival of the human race within this century, as well as using up even faster the world's rapidly dwindling oil reserves.
Combined with the parallel proposed expansion of Stansted Airport, the overcrowded skies (especially over the Stevenage area, used by both airports) the probability of a disastrous mid-air collision with be dramatically increased. Over-worked air traffic controllers are already struggling to cope with existing levels of aircraft movements and stand virtually no chance with the proposed increases.
More planes mean more noise. The airport's consultation document claims that this will not happen, and that fewer people will suffer this intrusion, but who will take that promise at face value?
The proposed construction will result in the destruction of at least 74 acres of woodland, as well as agricultural land and buildings, and the cutting of several roads used regularly by considerable numbers of local people. New and expanded roads (such as more M1 widening) to cope with the increased traffic to and from the airport will destroy yet more land.
The busier an airport is, the greater the temptation it offers to terrorist attack. Luton Airport is unusually vulnerable to one particular form of (easily and cheaply organised) attack which I will not detail here for obvious reasons.
The forecasts of growth in demand for air travel are based on the simple method of looking at existing trends and assuming they will continue into the future. This can happen only if aviation fuel remains readily and cheaply available. The chance of this in fact happening is negligible. Much more likely is that traffic will continue to increase for a few years longer, while the environmental destruction of building the expanded facilities goes ahead, and then drastic price increases will reverse the trend and we will be left with a massive white elephant on our doorsteps in place of the green fields and woodland there now.
Produced by Jim Fisher, 48 Swifts Green Close, Luton, Beds., LU2 8BS
on behalf of Luton and Bedfordshire Green Party, 13 Wedgwood Road, Bedford, MK41 7NW.
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