Luton Airport’s capacity could more than double over the next 20 years, under plans set out this weekend.
Bosses at London Luton Airport Ltd said it could serve 38M passengers per annum (mppa) as soon as the late 2030s.
They insisted in a report that they were not considering buiding a new or extended runway but would expand airside and landside infrastructure to provide extra capacity. Only half of available slots are currently used by commercial aircraft.
Constraints that need to be assessed, according to the London Luton Airport Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020-2050 report, include airspace; the need for stands, taxiways and other infrastructure; the size and number of terminals; access to the airport; noise and air quality; and the impact on the built and natural environment.
The report said: “We believe that the development of the infrastructure at Luton will deliver valuable runway capacity to meet the specific needs of its catchment area for mainly short-haul point-to-point journeys.”
It added: “While we are primarily focused on making the best use of the existing runway at Luton we are also exploring the capacity of our other landholdings around the airport to contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of the region.”
Works to expand the airport to 18mppa are ongoing and due to be completed next year, however Luton will hit this capacity by 2021, five years earlier than was forecast when planning permission was granted in 2014.
London Luton Airport Ltd chairman councillor Andy Malcolm said: “London Luton is a huge success story.
“On the back of 44 consecutive months of passenger growth, it is the fifth largest and fastest growing major airport in the UK, sustaining an estimated 33,000 jobs across the region, and contributing more than £1.5bn per year into the UK economy.
“The airport’s growth has been so fast in fact that at its current rate it is due to reach the current permitted capacity of 18 mppa in 2021.
“There is now a vital need to plan for London Luton Airport’s long-term future, to ensure the regional economy can enjoy the benefits of this through inclusive growth, and to help meet demand for UK aviation.
“At the same time, we are acutely aware of the consequences of having an international airport on the doorstep. Our commitment is to bring forward not only a more modern and efficient but also an environmentally and socially responsible London Luton Airport.”
Assessments by technical advisors are underway and consultation will start in mid-2018. If the expansion is considered a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP), the airport will submit a development consent order application to the Planning Inspectorate.
Work will start next year on the £225M mass passenger transit system Luton DART which will slash journey times from Luton Airport Parkway to the terminal to three minutes.