Airport £150m plans take off

Plans for a £150m overhaul of Leeds Bradford Airport have been approved in principle by a panel of Leeds City Councillors.

Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 1:49 pm
One of the information boards showing the plans for Leeds Bradford airport..

It follows a mammoth eight-hour debate during which dozens of academics, campaigners and businesspeople spoke out for and against the plans.

The airport wants the “state of the art” terminal, as well as new parking and access facilities, and has a target of 2023 for opening. LBA hopes the number of annual flights could increase from four million to seven million in the coming decades.

Objectors, which included climate scientists, transport experts and residents’ groups, warned such an expansion would help facilitate catastrophic climate change, as well as unbearable levels of noise pollution for those living close by.

But supporters, which included businesspeople and policymakers, said there was a risk the region could be left behind if it did not improve its airport, and that passengers would otherwise travel from other airports anyway.

The application sought to demolish the existing passenger pier to accommodate a new terminal building and forecourt area. This would also include the construction of supporting infrastructure, goods yard and mechanical electrical plant.

Plans were also included to modify flight time controls, and to extend the daytime flight period at Leeds Bradford Airport, with a likely increase from five to 17 flights between 6am and 7am.

The meeting saw 24 objectors speaking against the plans, each of whom were given two minutes to speak.

Campaigner David Faranoff added: “Climate change is the issue. Without drastic changes the consequences will be dire. Countries such as Bangladesh will become unviable, while places like the Maldives will disappear underwater, bringing millions of climate change refugees.”

Peter Bonsall, professor emeritus on transport planning at the University of Leeds, said: “To add insult to injury, they are offering wholly inadequate contributions to road and rail infrastructure. If LBA get what they want, Leeds residents will be sold down the river.”

Jefim Vogel, Leeds University Climate scientist said: “Eyes on the ball – the ball here is flight emissions – they are 97 percent of all airport emissions. Emissions from the terminal are tiny by comparison.”

He added it should be down to LBA to prove flights would be taken from another airport, adding: “That tends not to be what happens. It is like road-building, you build another road and there will be more cars on the road overall.

“Airport expansion drives demand for flights.”

Only five objectors spoke in favour of the application, meaning they were given more time each to speak.

Gerald Jennings from the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said: “If (passengers) do not fly from LBA, they will jump in their car and drive to Manchester – it seems to me if they don’t fly out of our airport, they will fly from another. We can’t stop people from flying. the world is bigger than that.”

“We are the largest economy outside London, but we have a third-rate airport- what message does that send out to people outside?”

Henri Murison, from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “If this is denied today, we will be consigning people to driving to London to access them – the surface access costs of that will be the same aviation emissions that have been discussed at great length, with more surface access concerns.

“We cannot cannibalise our economy and destroy jobs, of unionised workers, in the name of climate change – it reduces public support for an issue I personally feel passionate about.

The tone of the debate from the objectors sadly misses the point – if you turn this down, you are encouraging people to fly from London and the southeast.”

Chairman of Leeds Bradford Airport, Andy Clarke, said: “Our scheme will provide significant improvements, benefits to the regional economy and an improved passenger experience.

He promised “stringent noise controls”, and that Leeds Bradford Airport wanted to be “innovative and do things differently”, listing “world class access, state of the art technologies, better facilities, faster check-in, improved food and drink offers.”

Coun David Blackburn (Green) said: “If we don’t do something about Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere by 2030, we might have had it. There should be no expansion of any airport until then.

“Are we the appropriate people to be deciding this – should this not be done centrally?”

Graham Latty (Con): “I do have sympathy with objectors, but I can’t help looking at the airport – it has been there a long time. Without it, Leeds slips back a division. We want an airport that will be something that will increase the profitability of Leeds.”

Coun Robert Finnigan (MBI): “I am concerned that is this is an economic opportunity we don’t take, someone else will take it and we have the same impact on the environment.”

Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) said: “One the one hand, we have the economy and the jobs, on the other hand we have environmental factors.

“But Leeds needs a better airport.”

Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab): “There is 10 years left to avert catastrophic climate change. This application is about that growth in carbon emissions.

“This application will prevent Leeds from becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and I will be voting against.”

Coun Peter Carlill (Lab) said: “Until the industry can show us how this will work, I think it is much too early to be making a decision of this magnitude.”

Coun Al Garthwaite (Lab) compared the issue of air travel with asbestos, adding: “I don’t want to be part of a decision that will cause illnesses and death in 20 years.”

Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab) said: “I don’t think there is a single member of the council not concerned about pollution. But we can’t act like King Canute trying to hold back the waves.

“It is essential the new terminal is ready for occupation and the old one is demolished.”

Coun Dan Cohen (Con): “Leeds is a Premier League city, and Leeds needs a Premier League airport, and that it aint at the moment.”

Coun Asghar Khan (Lab): “If we want to be the best city in Europe, you need a good transport infrastructure.

“It will create jobs and bring in investment.”

Councillors voted by nine votes to five to agree to the plans in principle and to ask officers to make further conditions, for the updated plans to come back to the panel at a later date.