Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
A Leeds climate scientist has added to growing calls for a legal challenge against the £150m expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport, which was approved in principle by council planners this week.
Jefim Vogel is an academic at the University of Leeds whose research covers the effects of carbon emissions on the natural world. He believes the decision made by Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel this week would only benefit “relatively few people”, and would contribute towards a global climate catastrophe.
It follows calls today from campaign group GALBA, who have vowed to launch a legal challenge against the decision and launched a £30,000 crowdfunding campaign.
Mr Vogel, who was one of 23 objectors speaking at the meeting, said he would support such a move, adding:
“I am very disappointed at the outcome. The debate made clear that a lot of the councillors don’t fully embrace the urgency of the situation and what it requires.
“It deflects responsibility to Westminster, and focuses on short-term economic benefits – it shows we are dealing with the big questions about what matters to us as a society. Should you prioritise people’s lives or something that will benefit relatively few.”
So what could be next for the campaigners?
“It is my understanding that it is open to legal challenge because it does not fully consider the environmental impact,” he added. “So I would definitely embrace an appeal.
“I think it is fundamentally wrong to approve it – it’s been approved for the wrong reasons and flawed analysis.
“A lot of arguments are around economic growth, and ‘if we don’t, Manchester will’. I don’t think the arguments against this have been fully put on the table.”
During the meeting, each objector against the plans was allotted only two minutes to make their case to plans panel members, such was the huge number of those wanting to speak.
Jefim told members:
“If we allow the climate crisis to escalate, it will make the COVID crisis look like a bed of roses. The climate crisis stands above short-term economics. Millions of lives and livelihoods and the safety of human civilisation are at risk. That must be your number one priority today.
“With expansion, the true airport emissions would not be within the Department for Transport’s provision for LBA but would be more than double that. And they would alone exceed the maximum emissions allowance for the whole of Leeds, which would make it impossible for Leeds to meet its climate targets.”
Following an emotionally-charged eight and a half hour debate, councillors voted by nine to five in favour of the airport expansion.
The decision is expected to be officially rubber-stamped at a later date once the developers make tweaks to their proposals.
Here’s how each councillor voted at the debate:
- Caroline Gruen (Bramley & Staningley, Lab)
- James McKenna (Armley, Lab)
- Peter Gruen (Lab)
- Elizabeth Nash (Lab)
- Asghar Khan (Lab)
- Graham Latty (Cons)
- Paul Wadsworth (Cons)
- Dan Cohen (Cons)
- Robert Finnigan (Morley Borough independent)
- David Blackburn (Farnley & Wortley, Green)
- Pater Carlill (Calverley & Farsley, Lab)
- Neil Walshaw (Lab)
- Al Garthwaite (Lab)
- Colin Campbell (Lib Dem)