Achieving net zero nationally by 2050 involves permitting aviation growth, a planning inquiry at Luton Town Hall was told.

Opposition to a passenger capacity increase at London Luton Airport based around climate change is outside of the scope of the inquiry, it was claimed.

That would be a national issue concerning disagreement with government policy, according to legal counsel for the airport operator London Luton Airport Operations Limited and applicant James Strachan.

Luton Borough Council approved LLAOL’s plans to raise the capacity by 1m to 19m annually and vary noise contours.

But the scheme was called in by two Secretaries of State, resulting in the current six-week planning inquiry which began yesterday (Tuesday).

Mr Strachan explained: “This application seeks variation of certain conditions attached to a permission of 2017.

“This includes increasing the passenger cap to 19m, a 5.5 per cent rise in overall numbers, allowing for temporary amendments to the summer day and night-time noise contours, updating the parking management plan and to amend the passenger travel plan.

“We say this should clearly be permitted. It accords with the development plan and it’s strongly supported by national policy.

“Even if it had departed from the development plan, there are significant other material considerations why it should be permitted in any event.

“The council carefully scrutinised the application over 11 months, with independent expert consultants to perform a detailed review of the noise and climate change aspects.”

LBC granted approval in accordance with the recommendation made by planning officers in light of independent advice, said Mr Strachan.

“The application did conflict with certain parts of the development plan regarding predicted noise effects, but there were other material considerations why it should be permitted.

“The case for the scheme has become even stronger. The most up-to-date assessment shows the predicted noise effects aren’t significant, and will be imperceptible.

“Luton and district association for the control of aircraft noise (LADACAN) has based its objection against an artificial baseline which ignores this is an application to vary the variation permission.

“LADACAN says the baseline should be assessed against operating the airport at 12.4m passengers per annum. We say that position has no basis in fact or law.

“The jet zero strategy explicitly states the government continues to support airport expansion where justified.

“This achieves better use of the airport’s runway without any significant rise in noise for environmental impact assessment purposes.”

This application will result in more stringent noise contours in the long-term, coupled with a significantly improved noise insulation scheme, and accord with relevant national aviation policy, he added.

“Climate change is a national issue. Achieving net zero by 2050 involves permitting aviation growth.

“The plans include a requirement for the airport to agree a carbon reduction strategy with council. That will assess the carbon emissions from the airport itself.

“Opposition on the basis of climate change is based in reality around a disagreement on government policy.

“The proposal allows for a 5.5 per cent increase in passenger numbers at the airport without any need for extra infrastructure.”

The inquiry continues.