Words: John Baron and Richard Beecham
Councillors this evening voted to approve £150 million plans to build a new terminal at Leeds Bradford Airport.
The plans received the green light in principle from members of the City Plans Panel by nine votes to five. Final overall approval is subject to council planning officers re-negotiating a raft of planning conditions with the airport.
The conditions – which include improvements to the local road infrastructure and noise mitigation among other issues – will be brought back before a future City Plans Panel meeting for final approval.
The online meeting, which lasted eight and a half hours, heard environmental campaigners and climate academics warn flights in and out of Leeds needed to dramatically reduce in order to help humanity have a fighting chance of averting climate catastrophe in the coming years.
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.
A report from Leeds City Council officers said the climate impact of the new terminal itself would be lower than the current airport building, claiming the issue of carbon emissions from flights needed to be dealt with at a national level.
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, Farnley & Wortley) spokes against the proposals. He 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?”
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, Headingley) vehemently opposed the plans. He said:
“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, Calverley & Farsley) 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.”
The detailed proposals include a new three-storey terminal at the eastern edge of the runway. The airport wants the “state of the art” terminal, as well as new parking and access facilities, to be open by 2023. LBA hopes the number of annual flights could increase from four million to seven million in the coming decades.
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.
Airport chiefs aim to start work on the new building later this year.
The council received nearly 2,000 objections to the plans themselves, and also received more than 1,200 letters in support.
Campaign group GALBA, which had fought against the decision, vowed to fight on in a statement after the meeting:
“GALBA is disappointed that Leeds City Council has chosen to provisionally approve the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport. This is the wrong decision: wrong in law, wrong in planning policy and wrong for our climate! Today, Leeds City Council has put itself on the wrong side of history.
“However, our campaign is far from over. The decision is legally flawed and if the Council persist and grant full permission on the basis they discussed, then it will be open to legal challenge. We’re in a climate emergency and we simply cannot afford to carry on as if there’s no problem with increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
“even with the conditions set by the Council, this gives the green light for a huge increase in greenhouse gases, noise and air pollution. Expansion would make it impossible for our city to become net zero and would make a mockery of the Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration. It renders that declaration meaningless because when it has come to action, the Council has been shown wanting. They are in denial.
“This was an opportunity for Leeds City Council to show leadership and accept responsibility for protecting our world. They seem to have failed. In doing so, they have lost credibility when it comes to tackling the gravest danger that we face – the climate crisis.”
Leeds City Council also issued a statement following the decision. It said:
“The council recognises that the Leeds Bradford Airport planning application has been the subject of much public debate and, from the moment it was first submitted, full and proper attention has been paid to the evidence and arguments put forward by supporters and opponents alike. It should also be noted that the application was assessed on its own individual merits as part of the council’s normal planning process.
“There were a large number of matters for plans panel members to consider during this process, including the council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the issue of increasing carbon emissions from flights.
“Current Government policy points to these emissions being something that should be primarily tackled at a national level – and addressed through international agreements and protocols – rather than by suppressing growth at individual airports in a way that could simply export passengers to other nearby airports at a higher financial cost to them and increase surface transport emissions.
“The city plans panel also took into account matters such as the impact of aircraft noise on residents and the airport’s proposals for noise mitigation and landscaping as well as planned accessibility improvements designed to encourage a greater proportion of passengers and staff to use public transport for their journeys to and from the site.
“In addition, the airport’s plans showed that the proposed new terminal would replace the outdated and inefficient existing terminal and be built to a higher standard of environmental performance that would also provide an improved ‘gateway’ to Leeds, with an associated creation of new jobs.
“The application has been approved by the city plans panel today taking into consideration all of these issues, subject to a change and tightening up of certain conditions being discussed and agreed with the applicant, a section 106 agreement and referral to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The council is keen to continue working closely with local residents, businesses, community associations and the airport as the development begins to take shape.”