The operator of London Luton Airport is “disappointed” by a decision by the government to call-in an application to increase passenger capacity to 19m a year.

London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAOL) also applied to amend the day and night noise contours.

Its plans were approved by Luton Borough Council’s development management committee in December, subject to call-in by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove.

A decision has been taken on his behalf to hold a local inquiry in due course to consider “all the relevant aspects of the proposed development”.

A LLAOL spokesman said: “We’re disappointed by the decision, but respect the Secretary of State’s request for the application to undergo further examination.

“The government understands that airports are an important enabler of wider economic growth. For London Luton Airport to play its part, it’s important we can maximise our potential.

“Our plan enables us to do that by putting the airport on the best possible footing for a long-term recovery which supports the local economy and creates jobs, after the worst crisis our industry has ever faced.

“This plan is consistent with our commitment to achieve carbon neutrality for our own operations by 2026, and to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.”

The decision revealed in a letter to the local authority’s planning consultant David Gurtler coincides with the end of a consultation period over airport expansion to cater for 32m passengers a year.

Recent exhibitions were staged at a number of venues in parts of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire to outline future expansion proposals of the borough council’s airport company, Luton Rising.

A Luton Rising spokesman said today: “The Secretary of State had signalled his wish already to consider reviewing the (LLAOL) application, so this development is in line with due process.”