Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter
This week, one of Leeds’s biggest and most controversial planning applications in decades is set to go before council planning chiefs for a final decision.
All eyes will be on Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel as it hears the application for Leeds Bradford Airport’s £150m expansion plans at an online meeting on Thursday.
The decision will undoubtedly impact West Leeds for years to come.
Here is a quick recap of how the planning application unfolded…
So what is the application for?
Although first announced back in 2019, plans for Leeds Bradford Airport’s £150m overhaul were officially submitted to Leeds Council in May 2020.
The plans claim a ‘state of the art’ terminal being would include three main floors with improved vehicle access. It would also be closer to a proposed parkway rail station, announced by Leeds City Council last year.
The application seeks 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.
New car parking, a ‘meet and greet’ building and separate parking inspection building is also included in the plans, as well as a new bus terminal and taxi drop off facilities to the front of the new passenger terminal.
Planners also want to modify flight time controls, and to extend the daytime flight period at Leeds Bradford Airport,
The airport hopes for work to start on construction of the site by the end of this year, and for the new terminal to be up and running by 2023.
Why does the airport want to do it?
The application claims the current terminal – parts of which date back to the 1960s – is ‘dated’ and ‘inefficient’, warning the airport could lose passengers to nearby Manchester Airport unless the improvements are approved.
“There are clear environmental benefits in improving the existing infrastructure at the Airport.
“The current terminal is aged and has been the subject of a series of extensions since it was first built in the 1960s, which has resulted in a dated, and inefficient operation, which compromises its environmental integrity.”
The planning application went on to state that the developments would add £400M a year to Leeds and the surrounding area’s economy, and would ‘support’ nearly 9,000 jobs.
It hopes the planned expansion could see seven million passengers per year by 2030.
Why are people unhappy with it?
Several reasons, to put it lightly.
Climate scientists have warned the environmental damage caused by extra flights would dwarf any benefits gained from a more energy efficient terminal building.
Some local residents have also expressed concerns around how the extra flights would affect their lives, with noise a concern.
Leeds YouthStrike4Climate has said the plans, which could see the number of flights at the facility increase, could disproportionately affect both disadvantaged areas and schoolchildren.
Huddersfield Friends of the Earth has also criticised Leeds Bradford Airport’s proposed £1.5m contribution towards the planned £42m parkway railway station, suggesting the remaining amount may have to be paid for with public money.
Some have even suggested that the economic arguments for allowing the expansion are not sound, while the Covid-19 pandemic could cause a long-term reduction in demand for flights.
Just this week, a letter signed by campaign group GALBA was sent to committee members – signed by MPs, councillors and climate scientists – as a final plea to stop the expansion of the airport.
Add these to numerous high-profile protests over the past couple of years – including the now-infamous “die-in” staged by protesters at a planning meeting in January 2020.
Who makes the decision and when?
Leeds City Council’s city plans panel meets on Thursday, February 11 to make a decision on whether to approve it or not.
Do we know what is likely to happen?
It is not wise to try and guess what decision a council planning committee is going to make, but we can see what guidance the councillors are being given from Leeds City Council officers – who recommend approving the plans, albeit with dozens of caveats and conditions.
A report going before councillors at this week’s meeting added:
“The local planning authority has had regard to the high number of comments received, both in favour and against the proposals, together with the delivery of policy and technical requirements.
“Central to the proposed scheme is the development of a well-designed, more efficient, carbon neutral replacement terminal building. This will not only be more operationally efficient but will provide a gateway to Leeds and beyond and will greatly improve the passenger and employee experience and provide higher quality welcome for travellers to the city and the region.
“Linked to this, the proposed development will bring associated economic benefits.
“The application also entails the reduction of the night time flying regime period and an increase in the number of flights as the airport looks to expand to (seven million passengers per annum) by 2030.
“The focus of this is for LBA to be on a competitive footing with other regional airports, whilst at the same time, seeking to minimise and to mitigate any adverse environmental impacts.”
Dr Anthony Whiteing, a senior lecturer in Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, said in December 2020 that he believed Leeds City Council could find itself with no choice but to approve plans for a new £150m terminal at LBA, due to stifling planning regulations.
So what would the conditions be?
It’s worth reiterating that these are only suggested conditions by council officers, and that the final decision, along with any conditions made, is up to the Leeds city councillors that make up the plans panel.
While there are 50 suggested conditions overall, these are a few of the highlights:
- Samples of materials used in the development to be submitted to the council.
- Plans for nearby landscaping to be submitted to the council, as well as a commitment for no trees, hedges, bushes or trees to be removed that are not shown on the approved plans. It adds any that die within five years must be replaced at LBA’s cost.
- Hours of construction to be 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on a Saturday only.
- Details of measures to treat odour and fumes from the fuel farm and refuelling activities to be submitted to the council.
- A Biodiversity Environmental Management Plan including a landscaping management plan which includes monitoring for a minimum of 30 years to be submitted.
- Separate drainage for foul and surface water.
- Nearby road works to be completed by developer prior to opening.
- A658 roundabout works to be completed prior to achieving six million passengers per year.
- Forecourt works, electric vehicle charging hubs, parking, showers, and lockers to be completed before opening.
- Several controls on night time movement and noise.
- No routine engine testing between the hours of 11pm and 7am, as well as any time on a Sunday, good Friday and Christmas day.
- LBA to pay 100 percent of the costs on the supply and installation of secondary windows or the same value as a grant towards replacement primary
When is the meeting? Can I see it?
Yes, you can. It will be broadcast live on Leeds City Council’s YouTube page from 1.30pm on Thursday, November 11.
I may criticise planners for road/highways, but this airport project they should approve. This is a massive benefit to millions on west/north Yorkshire and beyond. There will be critics, but i would suggest that planes will become less polluting in the future. You already know that the well loved Jumbo Jet has been axed, so new ones will not be built. Cars are been forced to be environmentally friendly and other modes of transport are having to do the same. i know people who live or work in Yeadon and they dont have any major concerns. They live with the situation as it is now. People who move in to the area, can not miss the fact that they have an airport on the doorstep. I have also been involved with surveys in the past at the airport and I can say that there was overwhelming support for the road and rail connections to be improved. There have also been issues with the flow of people through customs and in the departure lounge. These needed to be improved. 2020 ( and maybe 2021) has not been a good year for for airports and airlines, but the world cannot continue with isolation. Its not just holidays, its commuting from Yorkshire to Scotland, Cornwall, London, Channel Islands and world-wide for business. Dont let businesses and the people of Yorkshire lose out on the great future that is in front of all of us.