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29 November 2013, 17:26 | Updated: 29 November 2013, 17:29
A £300m deal has been completed which sees the Luton Borough Council concession to run the Airport (LLAOL - Luton Airport Operations Ltd) sold by Abertis to the Ardian and AENA Groups.
Speaking to Heart, Luton Airport MD Glyn Jones said: "Our new owners arrive at an exciting period of change that will see the airport transformed. They come with a detailed knowledge of investment in transport services and infrastructure plus an impressive track record in airport operations. Their support is greatly welcomed as we work to ensure that LLAOL improves and expands the services we provide, for the benefit of our customers, communities and the economy."
So what are the plans? Mr Jones said there's a lot of work already going on to make the airport a lot better for travellers "from things we can achieve immediately including better training for staff, improved lighting in the terminal and looking at how we improve signs around the airport to help passengers find their way around."
Longer term plans involve building a new taxi-way for more aircraft and passengers, a multi-storey car-park, more trains per-hour through the night, more aircraft stands and an extension to the terminal building.
On Thursday 21st, Luton Borough Council was due to hold it's Development Control Committee meeting - which was due to look at the planning application to increase capacity to 18 million passengers a year. But last week, the Government told the authority to postpone the meeting.
Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Planning at Hertfordshire County Council told Heart: "For nearly two years now Hertfordshire County Council has voiced concerns that it has not been proven that Luton Borough Council can legally proceed to determine this planning application rather than the Government.
I also wrote to the Government calling for it to step in and prevent Luton Borough Council from granting planning permission for this proposal and very much welcome the news that the Government has done just that."
Ardian, through its Infrastructure funds, is a major European long term investor in assets that provide people with essential services in transport, energy, water and telecommunications.
AENA operates 46 airports in Spain, including Madrid (45 million annual passengers) and Barcelona (35 million passengers) and participates directly and indirectly in the management of another 15 airports worldwide.
After discussion with Luton Council's Chief Executive and Chair of the Development Control Committee, consideration of the planning application submitted by London Luton Airport Operations Ltd was last week deferred from Thursday 21 November until a future date yet to be fixed.
This decision was taken to meet a request from the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Planning at Hertfordshire County Council, received on 18 November, to provide a second and impartial legal opinion on all the work undertaken in respect of the airport's capacity and the provisions of the Planning Act 2008.
Whilst the delay is regrettable, Luton Borough Council has therefore appointed John Steel, an aviation specialist Planning QC, and has additionally used this opportunity to ask Mr Steel to conduct a full independent review of the application.
The Council's role as local planning authority is entirely separate to that as shareholder of London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL). Each is run wholly independently of each other, with their respective functions entirely separate. Government policy is for decisions on planning applications to be made locally wherever possible and this is normal practice for councils.
Additionally, the Council is now in receipt of a direction under Article 25 of the Town and Country Planning Order 2010 not to grant permission without specific authorisation from the Secretary of State of Communities and Local Government. This direction is issued to enable him to consider whether he should direct that the application be referred to him under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
London Luton Airport is one of the UK’s largest airports and carried 9.6 million passengers in 2012. The Airport directly and indirectly employs over 500 and 8,000 staff respectively, is a key economic driver for the region and a major base for ‘low cost’ or ‘no frills’ air travel.
easyJet, Wizz Air, Ryanair, Monarch, Thomson, EL AL, Blue Air, TAROM, Carpatair and Flybe operate from the airport, departing to over 100 destinations including services to Europe, Africa, and Asia, with onward connections to Mumbai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Beijing and Bangkok via Tel Aviv.