The airport and the environment

Sustainability at the airport

We believe our sustainability measures will be some of the most far-reaching commitments to minimise environmental impacts ever put forward by a UK airport.

Here they are in detail:

Carbon: Road Traffic

As the airport’s owner, we can influence people’s journeys to and from the airport to reduce carbon impacts.

The opening of the DART rail service (in 2022) is a key first step on this journey, tempting passengers away from their cars and on to the train. As we develop proposed future growth of the airport, the key actions we will take to build on this towards a Carbon Neutral Surface Access impact will be:

  • Providing electric vehicle charging points, supporting the shift from fossil-fuelled vehicles, and
  • The introduction of environmentally-focused pricing to incentivise mode shift and the use of cleaner vehicles
  • Introducing a target that at least 45% of all journeys to the airport should be made by sustainable transport modes, which we will secure through our GCG Framework

Changes as the result of expansion, if Future LuToN is approved:

Carbon: Construction

The construction of major infrastructure like airports inevitably entails significant earthworks, use of materials, and other traditionally carbon-intensive activities.

We expect the carbon intensity of construction activity and materials to fall over the coming decade, and working with our supply chain partners we will drive out carbon emissions as far as we can, through:

  • Prioritising materials reuse.
  • Using low-carbon forms of concrete where possible.
  • Using electrically powered vehicles and equipment wherever practicable.

Biodiversity

The variety and number of plants, animals, and insects, and the amount of space available in which they can thrive is known as ‘biodiversity’.

As well as being a sign of the health and vitality of the natural world, biodiversity provides people with recreation opportunities and healthy contact with nature and support for mental wellbeing, as well as bringing more practical benefits such as pest control through the maintenance of natural predators of rodents and unwanted insects.

Infrastructure development has the potential to negatively affect natural habitats. As a result, it can lead to losses in biodiversity. While we cannot avoid impacts on the areas of land over which the additional facilities of the expanded airport will be constructed, we are taking great care in planning our proposals to ensure that we minimise this impact on biodiversity as far as possible and offset what cannot be avoided or minimised. We will minimise our impact by:

  • Optimising the location of new infrastructure and minimising its size
  • Retaining woodland wherever possible and avoiding impacts on areas of natural woodland.
  • Protecting nocturnal species from light pollution and ensuring new lighting does not spill over onto existing habitat areas outside the development area

In addition to this, our proposals also involve the creation of new areas of natural habitat designed to more than offset the loss of habitat area which cannot be designed out. (We’ve already started this this process in some areas in our control, by introducing local wildflower mixes to reduce the enrichment of the soil through may years of arable farming.) Our proposals will include:

  • Introducing new habitat areas within our designs – notably the area connecting to Wigmore Valley Park, as well as introducing grass or shrubs to smaller areas on the airport site
  • Using hedgerows (which are home to many species) wherever possible where new visual and noise screening is required instead of using man-made infrastructure
  • Physically moving anthills, and other natural features wherever possible, if direct impacts on their existing locations are unavoidable

As a result, our plans will result in an overall increase in biodiversity of at least 10% in the area around the airport compared to today’s levels, preserving the benefits of nature, and making it more accessible to those who live and work in the area so they can experience it.

Noise

Noise from aircraft is a key issue for many of those who live near the airport, including Luton residents and those living in neighbouring areas. This is an issue that is common to most airports around the world, and in response to this aircraft manufacturers are continuing to make significant steps to reduce the level of noise resulting from the operation of aeroplanes both on the ground and as they take off and land.

In addition to the benefits delivered by new aircraft design, we will also take action directly to mitigate noise impacts, for example by:

  • Designing the airside infrastructure in such a way to reduce the amount of time aircraft engines need to run (eg by shortening the distances to the runway & by making taxiway infrastructure more efficient to reduce queueing)
  • Providing a compensation scheme for households affected by noise above a certain level to cover the installation of noise insulation (we will also explore potential synergies with carbon-reduction measures for homes through the proposed local carbon offsetting scheme)
  • Noise screening of noise-intensive areas, for example the engine ground running bay where engines are tested prior to flight operations to ensure they are running properly
  • Introduction of new hedgerows to provide acoustic and visual screening (research indicates that visual screening can reduce the perception of noise even for the same level of actual noise)
  • To provide certainty on airport growth and the level of noise experienced by communities in future, a ‘noise envelope’ has been developed. The noise envelope contains a suite of noise control measures that have been developed through consultation with stakeholders and community groups. This will include retention of the limit for aircraft movements at night. Secured through our GCG Framework, the airport will have a legal obligation to comply with the noise envelope.