Great Britain

MPs among those to object to airport expansion plan

LEEDS city councillors will meet this week to discuss the latest on Leeds Bradford Airport’s proposed £150m rebuild, as thousands have voiced their opinions both for and against the plans.

Those speaking out against the proposed airport expansion include a group of five Leeds MPs, as well as numerous town councils, and regional campaign groups; while transport, aviation and business representatives have come out in support.

The controversial plans, which would involve building a new eco-friendly terminal to accommodate more flights, surfaced last year, and have been subject to fierce debate ever since.

Opponents of the airport’s expansion say the extra flights would make a mockery of the council’s climate emergency declaration and clean air targets, while its advocates claim the expansion would boost Leeds’s economy and bring jobs to the city.

Leeds Bradford Airport boss speaks of 'environmentally friendly' plans for new terminal

A report, set to go before members of the council’s city plans panel, states more than 1,800 objections and 1,274 letters of support for the expansion were received.

Objecting the proposals, Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central, said: “The grounds for my objection are the consequence of this development for the chances of Leeds meeting its climate targets.

“I understand that the application states that the airport is expecting 7 million passengers per year by 2030, which is higher than the current figure. This will inevitably result in a higher level of CO2 emissions from more flights.”

Leeds East MP Richard Burgon (Lab) added: “The proposed expansion would have an environmental impact upon the people and communities I represent and, indeed, contribute to the situation of environmental danger faced by all of our society.”

He claimed the application took no account for the increasing of air pollution or the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused a sharp decline in the demand for international travel.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: “The increased availability of flights would also exacerbate existing issues with congestion and pollution, through the correlating increase of traffic to the airport, usually in private vehicles.”

Alex Sobel (Leeds Northwest), whose constituency is home to Leeds Bradford Airport, said: ” I have deep concerns that the underlying business model to pay for the terminal equates to an expansion of passenger number and flights. In the context of the climate emergency, and if the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must put public health at the forefront of public decision making, ahead of any perceived economic benefit.”

Leeds Northeast MP Fabian Hamilton argued in his own letter that the expected passenger number increase was hugely over-optimistic.

Campaign groups such as GALBA, Burley and Menston Airport discussion group and Leeds friends of the earth have all submitted objections to the plans.

Town and parish councils speaking out against the expansion include Horsforth Town Council, Menston Parish Council, Burley Parish Council, Bingley Town Council, Rawdon Parish Council, Bramhope, and Carlton Parish Council and Otley Town Council.

Leeds Civic Trust, West Park Residents Association, Westway Residents group, Weetwood Residents Association, Drummons and Churchwood Residents Association, Aireborough Civic Society, Becketts Park Residents Association, North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, Little Woodhouse Community Association and Headingley Village Society also made objections.

A petition from 90 members of staff at the University of Leeds cited the impact such a move could have on the climate, adding that a post-Covid economy could no longer prop up industries that “hasten climate breakdown”.

Leading the calls supporting airport expansion is Dutch airline KLM, whose account manager David Greenwood stated the company was a “world leader in flying responsibly”.

He added: “As the second most important financial center in the UK, LBA generates regular and sustainable traffic to multiple global destinations.

“Inbound tourism is showing positive growth into LBA with so much history, culture and beauty right on your doorstep; yet another potential source of economic growth for the area which we are eager to facilitate with our global reach.

“Traffic volumes have expanded with all current LBA operators to the point where the infrastructure is now struggling to cope. The terminal has been expanded and added to on numerous occasions but the overall result is a building which is not really fit for purpose, does not reflect the image Yorkshire wishes to promote and is not suitable to deliver the carbon reduction targets to which LBA is committed.”

The plans are also supported by the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, which represents many businesses in the region. It argued the continued economic impact of Brexit meant it was more important than ever to expand air travel in the region.

Head of the chamber Mark Goldstone said: “Connectivity to markets around the world will remain a major factor in the growth of our regional economy once we are through the current crisis, and so plans to redevelop Leeds Bradford Airport are welcomed by the Chamber.

“As the economy begins to recover, investment in new infrastructure will provide jobs not only during the construction phase but after works are complete also.

“As we transition out of the single European market at the end of 2020 it will be more important than ever that Yorkshire businesses can access global markets conveniently.”

The plans also attracted support from transport companies Yutong Bus and Transdev.

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