The first words in Labour’s mission to secure the highest growth in the G7 are “Britain has immense potential”. I couldn’t agree more with this and firmly believe that improving infrastructure up and down the country will unlock the jobs and productivity growth needed for us to kick on as a nation.
Additionally, innovative approaches to infrastructure ownership will help achieve this in every part of the country and ensure the benefits are invested back into local communities.
London Luton Airport is the UK’s most socially impactful airport, and this is facilitated through the airport’s unique ownership. Luton Rising, the trading name for London Luton Airport Ltd, is owned by Luton Borough Council. This allows financial benefits that arise from the airport to flow into local and nearby communities.
As a direct result of the council’s sole shareholding in London Luton Airport Ltd, more than £300million has been provided to support vital front-line services since 1998, supplemented by £180million for vital voluntary, community and charitable organisations.
This annual provision allows vital community organisations to continue their work across our town, keeping wealth local. For every passenger travelling through our airport, 53p is invested directly in local community causes – in 2019, this equated to 20 times that of any other UK airport. I believe that this model can be replicated with other infrastructure across the UK, helping to generate regional wealth and keep it local.
On a wider economic front, the airport directly employs 10,900 people, and this is set to increase as part of our expansion plans to increase passenger capacity from 18 million per annum to 32 million. Our expansion proposals would create a further 4,400 jobs in Luton alone and 6,100 new jobs supported across the Three Counties (Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire & Buckinghamshire).
Job creation must be at the centre of any economic growth plan, and improving infrastructure is going to facilitate this in the short- and long-term. Furthermore, the majority of jobs in the aviation sector are undertaken by working class, unionised people across the country whose positions and contributions to society we cannot afford to lose. Labour rightly identifies that giving working people skills and opportunities is key to achieving its growth mission.
Airport expansion will drive fair, high-quality and well-paid jobs – what’s important is to ensure expansion is done in the least environmentally impactful way possible. Local residents have justifiable concerns about aircraft noise, road traffic and air quality, and every environmentally aware person, local or otherwise, is understandably concerned about the impact of air travel on carbon.
Our expansion plans include a unique Green Controlled Growth (GCG) Framework. The GCG places robust maximum limits on, and will measure the impacts of:
The GCG will ensure that the airport’s operational carbon emissions, air pollution, and noise pollution will not exceed 2019 legally binding limits. The expansion plans include infrastructure enhancements and initiatives to support the target of achieving zero-emission ground operations by 2040 – a requirement of the Government’s Jet Zero Strategy that was announced in July 2022.
Furthermore, the airport’s performance on these operational carbon emission measures against the GCG framework will be overseen by an independent Environmental Scrutiny Group. This Group will include representation from the local authorities most affected by the expansion plans.
The proposals are a true example of how sustainable airport growth can be achieved while delivering good, well-paid jobs.
This all feeds into another of the central aspects of Labour’s G7 growth mission – to “seize new opportunities”. The aviation industry is at the centre of economic, social, and environmental transition. However, no one nation has, so far, asserted itself as a leader of sustainable aviation – enabling sustainable airport expansion will help establish the UK as a leader in this space.
Airport expansion will significantly improve the economic outlook for the UK, and it does not need to be in tension with net zero targets. It will create secure, well-paid jobs for an array of people, drive economic growth, and it is perfectly viable for airports to grow and tackle carbon emissions in tandem – ultimately, we need to contain carbon, not people’s ability to fly.
To read more on Labour’s growth mission, see Healthy Homes: Labour’s Five National Missions Should Recognise the Connection Between Growth, Homes and Health.