My last blog post on this subject contained a document explaining the Government’s policy framework for increasing airport runway capacity in the South East of England. The framework is new as it was published in June 2018 and to my knowledge it has not yet been used to increase runway capacity and neither has there been any policy guidance published. So how may this policy framework operate in practice?

The framework consists of 2 phases 1) decision-making and 2) decision-taking. Decision – making is undertaken by the Local Planning Authority, for example, Luton Borough Council and decision-taking is undertaken by the Secretary of State at the Department for Transport.

After a proposal for increasing runway capacity from London Luton Airport Limited has been consulted on, and reports on for example, air and noise pollution have been produced. Luton Borough Council has to decide, perhaps through its long established planning application process, whether these environmental impacts are acceptable, and whether the land needed to implement the proposal is not required for another purpose.

The Council then makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State about the signing of a Development Consent Order. Then the Secretary of State takes the decision to sign a Development Consent Order justifying this choice by accepting the recommendation of the Council which in turn has been justified by the content of the proposal and associated environment reports.

At this second, decision-taking phase, the Secretary of state could also refuse to sign a Development Consent Order justifying this refusal by claiming the proposal does not supply an appropriate amount of runway capacity to meet the future demand as set out in the policy framework, or because during the time taken to evaluate London Luton Airport Limited’s proposal, the level of demand has increased.

If the Secretary of State refuses to take the decision to sign a Development Consent Order for these reasons or other reasons as yet unspecified, the proposer, London Luton Airport Limited, would want to change their proposal by increasing runway capacity, perhaps by adding another runway, otherwise the proposed passenger terminal capacity, so vital to the delivery of jobs would remain unapproved.

Nevertheless, the proposed terminal capacity could be approved by the Council who clearly have conflicted interests, as they are both benificiaries of airport capacity growth and the Local Planning Authority.