Expansion plans for London Luton Airport are due to be reviewed in microscopic detail when a public inquiry starts tomorrow.

London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAOL) applied to increase passenger capacity from 18m to 19m a year, and to amend the day and night noise contours.

Its proposals were approved by Luton Borough Council’s development management committee in December, subject to being called in by the government.

Both the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Secretary of State for Transport agreed a local inquiry should be held to review “all the relevant aspects of the development”.

Three inspectors are expected to participate during the inquiry, Richard Clegg, Sheila Holden and Geoff Underwood.

A pre-inquiry meeting was held by the inspectors in the Council Chamber at Luton Town Hall in July to outline the management of the process, as well as the arrangements for this month.

The agenda included seven areas the inspectors consider to be the main aspects of the application.

  • how the plans meet the challenge of climate change;
  • the noise-associated impact on health, the quality of life and the character of the area;
  • its effect on air quality;
  • how it takes into account sustainable transport objectives and transport infrastructure;
  • socio-economic implications;
  • whether it would be consistent with the local development plan and other relevant policies;
  • and the influence of other considerations on the overall planning balance.
  • LLAOL received permission in 2013 to expand capacity to 18m passengers a year over a 15-year period to 2028, but reached 19m by 2019.

Two environmental campaigners waved placards and shouted anti-expansion messages during the local authority’s development management meeting.

Their concerns include the role of the borough council in granting planning permission when it owns Luton Rising, the trading name of London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL).

The airport is operated by a private company, entirely separate from LLAL, under a concession agreement, while LLAL is a wholly owned subsidiary of LBC.

Local protest group Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN) is set to lead opposition to the plans.

“We’re really grateful for the support from local MPs, councils and other groups in helping to get this decision called in,” Andrew Lambourne, from the organisation, said in April.

“We expect the hearings to shine some uncomfortable light on how the borough council and the airport failed to ensure the required balance between growth and mitigation, apparently focusing on maximising revenues instead.”

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

“Our project enables us to put 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.”

Separate future proposals from LBC’s airport company would potentially increase the passenger capacity to 32m annually.