Leeds Bradford Airport: government delays decision on controversial expansion

Plans to increase passenger numbers by 3 million every year would fly in face of country’s commitment to become carbon neutral, opponents say

Colin Drury
Wednesday 07 April 2021 10:32 BST
Artist’s impression of new Leeds Bradford Airport terminal
Artist’s impression of new Leeds Bradford Airport terminal (Leeds Bradford Airport)

A £150 million proposal to transform Leeds Bradford Airport into what would be the north’s second busiest hub has been delayed to allow the government more time to consider it.

Plans to replace the old Sixties terminal with an entirely new building – part of a scheme to accommodate an extra 3 million passengers a year – were approved by Leeds City Council in February.

But the decision was referred to the government amid major concerns that the development – and the resulting pollution – would devastate the UK’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Now communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said he wants longer to give “proper consideration” to all sides of the debate. A date for a final decision has not been set.

Chris Foren, chair of the opposing Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport, said he was happy the government had paused the plans - but they now needed to be killed off completely.

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“We’re glad that the secretary of state hasn’t just waved this through without properly considering all the implications that such a development would have,” he told the Independent. “We now urge him to give these plans the scrutiny this deserve because we’re confident, once he does so, it will be absolutely obvious that they are entirely incompatible with the urgent need to decarbonise the economy.

“There are no two ways about it: it would be an environmental disaster for the region and for the country.”

The new terminal was first mooted in 2018 as part of a scheme that would turn Leeds Bradford into the second busiest airport in the north (after Manchester) and the 10th busiest in the country.

The scheme would see the old terminal replaced with a new three-storey, glass-fronted complex enabling up to 17 extra flights a day.

Advocates – and some 1,600 people have signed a petition in favour – say it would build on Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda by creating an estimated 12,650 jobs and boosting connectivity in an area of West Yorkshire much in need of a post-coronavirus boost. They have also pointed out that the new building itself would be net-zero.

But opponents have included MP and councillors from across the region and political spectrum, as well as residents and environmental groups.

Only on Monday did Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn plead with Mr Jenrick to call-in the plan.

"This one airport plans to emit more CO2 than a number of small countries which are the most vulnerable to climate change,” he wrote in the Yorkshire Post. “While LBA expansion may not be on the scale of Heathrow, the proposal has implications that go way beyond the immediate locality of the airport."

Responding to news of the call-in, a spokesperson for Leeds Bradford Airport said: "We acknowledge the deadline extension and hope the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will uphold Leeds City Council's approval for our replacement terminal, which will deliver thousands of new jobs and support the region's economy."

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