LBA Expansion and Why It Does Not Currently Have Permission to Expand to 7 Million Passengers per Year (mppa)
Extracts from the documents referred to here are attached below.
Tables in the Environmental Statement (Vol 1), which is part of LBA’s planning application, show the 2018 ‘baseline’ passenger numbers using LBA and the 2030 ‘with development’ scenario numbers (ie if the application is approved). These show that LBA is proposing to expand from 4mppa to 7mppa; and from 30,000 flights per year (passenger ATMs - Air Transport Movements) to nearly 46,000. That is expansion by any definition.
The third extract is from the LCC Planning Officer’s report to the February 2021 City Plans Panel Committee meeting which conditionally approved expansion. This informed panel members that LBA currently has permission to expand to 5mppa, but not beyond. This is because of a legally binding Section 106 agreement which was attached to the permission given to LBA in 2019 that allowed them to extend the existing terminal. LBA signed up to this Section 106 agreement on 29 January 2019. A key paragraph of the agreement is shown in the fourth extract. It states that in order to expand beyond 5mppa, LBA must make a new planning application within 12 months of exceeding a threshold of 4.5mppa.
Supporters of expansion (and LBA itself) have suggested that LBA could ignore the Section 106 agreement. This is not correct. Both the current planning permission and the 2019 permission (to extend the existing terminal) expressly control passenger numbers. The Section 106 agreement limits any expansion that would result in passenger numbers consistently above 4.5 million. The agreement recognises that surface access arrangements cannot easily cope beyond that number of passengers and that new transport, travel and other arrangements are needed for expansion beyond 5mppa. If the current application is fully approved, the Section 106 agreement would be superseded by a new permission allowing growth to 7mppa. LBA and supporters of expansion suggest that it would be unlawful for the Section 106 agreement to be used to control passenger numbers. But they give no evidence or legal authority for this. Airport passenger numbers are routinely controlled by planning authorities and there is no reason that such control would be unlawful via a Section 106 agreement. Nor is there any reason why it would be unlawful for LCC to have exercised that control by requiring a further planning application to be made.
Supporters of expansion also refer to LBA’s ability to fly an unlimited number of flights during the current daytime hours. It's true that LBA can, in theory, fly as many planes as they like during the day. However they can't carry more than 5mppa. LBA could use 2.5 million two-seater Cessna planes if they wanted, but the airlines and airport would go bankrupt. So obviously they use as few, densely packed planes as possible. In fact, LBA’s planning application goes to great lengths to explain that they predict fewer flights due to higher capacity planes.