Leeds Bradford Airport CEO says the plan is about modernising not expanding

Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has been planning to expand, building a new terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers – and thus more CO2 and more noise. The plans have been fiercely opposed. Now, with the airport effectively closed for months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the chief executive has written that the plans are not about expanding. He says the building plans are to improve and modernise the terminal, and “LBA is not expanding because we are not proposing to grow beyond the airport’s existing consented capacity
limit of 7 million passengers. Our present limit is already 7m passengers and LBA is not proposing to increase that limit.”  He claims planes are now so (allegedly) “quiet” that tight noise restrictions are not as relevant as years ago. There is the usual stuff about the airport aiming to be carbon net zero by 2023 – which is lovely, though it excludes the carbon from flights, making it somewhat irrelevant. The CEO comes out with all the usual industry platitudes about “clean” planes, and “sustainable” fuels, and future electric planes … none of which mean much. And cycle routes to the airport …

Letter to Planning Department of Leeds City Council, from Leeds Central MP, Hilary Benn, about the application

Airport’s CEO says Leeds Bradford Airport plan is about modernising not expanding

By Hywel Rees  (chief executive of Leeds Bradford Airport)


LEEDS Bradford Airport needs to modernise. The existing terminal building was built in 1965 and it really hasn’t changed much since. It’s 55 years old and struggles to provide the level of customer service that passengers and airlines expect.

LBA’s planning application is not about expansion. LBA is not expanding because we are not proposing to grow beyond the airport’s existing consented capacity
limit of seven million passengers. Our present limit is already 7m passengers and LBA is not proposing to increase that limit.

LBA needs to modernise and the only way to do that is to build a new, modern terminal with efficient facilities. The new building will be smaller than the old one because it will make a more efficient use of space. That’s possible because the industry has learned a lot about airport design since 1965.

The proposed new building will be an iconic focal point for Yorkshire. There has been lots of feedback from the public on LBA’s plans and it’s important that these concerns are addressed.

On noise, it’s surprising that, at the moment, there is absolutely no limit whatsoever on the number of night flights at LBA involving modern aircraft such as the 737 max and the A320neo family. This is because, like LBA’s terminal building, the night-time restrictions at LBA are out of date.

When the current restrictions were drafted in the mid-1990s, no-one expected modern aircraft to be as quiet as they are today, so the current restriction becomes less relevant as more modern aircraft are introduced. That’s not what was intended at the time, of course, so LBA is proposing a new, modern system of quotas to bring LBA into line with other airports in the UK.

Leeds Bradford Airport consultation extended as support group claim airport is ‘unreasonably targeted’

On the environment, LBA’s plans mean that the new terminal building will be rated BREEAM “Excellent”, meaning it will be the most environmentally friendly terminal building in the UK. We see this as an integral part of our commitment to operate a carbon net zero airport by 2023.

Of course, most carbon in aviation is emitted by aircraft, not airports. 
In the past, the aviation industry has not been very good at publicising the enormous improvements that have already been made to aircraft efficiency over the years. Yet, modern aircraft are about 80 per cent more fuel efficient and 90 per cent quieter than they were in the 1950s.

That trend is going to continue because cleaner aircraft are obviously sustainable in the long term, but also cheaper to run, providing airlines with a natural incentive to introduce them. As sustainably sourced synthetic fuels are developed and as electrification becomes more viable, aircraft will become cleaner and quieter than ever.

Tackling climate change is an international challenge. Restricting flights at LBA will only mean that the people of Yorkshire will have to travel further to catch flights, typically by road.

As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, LBA’s plans offer Yorkshire the opportunity to help kick-start its economy, helping the construction and tourism sectors to recover in the short term and, in the longer term, creating the high value, knowledge-based jobs that Yorkshire needs.

LBA also supports the construction of a new railway station, less than a mile from the airport. It will enable direct trains to and from King’s Cross Station in London on the Azuma service that operates three times a day on the Leeds to Harrogate line. No other airport outside London would have a mainline service of that quality on its doorstep.

Our plans include proposals for a liveried coach service from the biggest local railway stations, improved bus services, better cycling facilities and incentives to encourage more use of public transport.

LBA’s plans are fundamentally different from the plans submitted recently by other UK airports. This is for two reasons. First, LBA is not proposing any increase in passenger numbers beyond its existing consented capacity. Second, LBA is replacing existing infrastructure; the old terminal building will be demolished when the new one opens.

All the other planning applications across UK airports either involved an increase in consented capacity or infrastructure or both. LBA needs to modernise. LBA’s plans are a sensible but exciting response to that challenge.

Hywel Rees is chief executive of Leeds Bradford Airport.



See earlier:


Leeds Bradford airport submits plans for new terminal building & more passengers (4m to 7m a year) despite Covid fall in demand.

The airport has submitted a planning application to Leeds City Council, to replace the current terminal building with a new one by 2023, to increase passenger numbers from 4 million a year to 7 million a year. Opponents to the plans say that will make the climate emergency “worse” and that the current pandemic means there’s “no need” for it. Local people, in Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) say the expansion will increase CO2 emissions, at a time when countries around the world are being urged to drastically then. It will also bring more noise for local communities, increased air pollution, and more traffic congestion. Instead “We need to rebuild a healthy economy in Leeds. We don’t need an unsustainable development like this.” Leeds City Council  declared a climate emergency in 2019, but conveniently does not include the CO2 emissions from the airport’s flights in its carbon budget. But the flights alone would exceed Leeds’ entire carbon budget by 2035. The airport is trying hard to persuade the Council that its expansion is needed, in competition with Manchester, and the (alleged) economic benefits it would bring would be huge.  Will it be able to afford £150 million, now there is the Covid fall in demand?

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Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could now be in doubt – if the landmark Heathrow climate case can be used against it

The ruling on Heathrow’s 3rd runway on 27th February, by the Court of Appeal, put the scheme seriously in doubt – on the grounds of its carbon emissions. The DfT had decided not to take proper account of the extra carbon emissions, in relation to the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, when it produced the Airports National Policy Statement . The ruling is ground-breaking, because it sets a global precedent that can now be used to challenge other developments which damage the environment. The expansion plans of Leeds Bradford would result in a possible increase in passengers from about 4 million per year now to about 7 million. This means the plans are not considered large enough to require the National Policy Statement and DCO route. Instead the application goes through the usual planning process. So the Heathrow ruling may not have a direct bearing on this case, though the principle of the need to properly account for carbon emissions from new developments, may be used to argue against it if it went to appeal. Leeds has declared a climate emergency, and its local Citizens’ Assembly resolved that the airport should not expand, due to its carbon emissions.

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Kirklees council urged not to back Leeds Bradford expansion plans – due to climate impact

Kirklees Council leader has been urged not to back the use of public money to help the £41 million expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport.  The call came from Kirklees Greens leader, Cllr Cooper, who says pumping £5 million into a proposed new rail interchange – the Leeds Bradford Airport Parkway scheme – would inevitably increase international flights and could undermine regional carbon emissions targets. Such a commitment of public money, increasing carbon emissions at a time of climate crisis, was foolhardy. The airport’s expansion plans are being considered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), a group of leading councillors and officers from West Yorkshire councils, plus York, that works on major infrastructure projects. The rail interchange would include a new railway station on the Harrogate railway line and associated access works, assisting access to the airport. The scheme is being promoted with claims it will improve air quality … slightly dubious reasoning there … Cllr Cooper: “Kirklees Council cannot ignore the impact of air travel and the threat it poses to all the actions that we need to be taking to reduce global emissions.”

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‘Lives will be blighted’ by £150M Leeds Bradford Airport plans say protesters after ‘die-in’ at meeting

Leeds Bradford is planning to expand, spending £150 million on a new terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers.  Local residents object to the plans as an ‘abdication of responsibility’ and claimed an eco-friendly terminal would be pointless if the numbers of flights increased, as this would massively increase CO2 emissions. The Council meeting had been suspended for 20 minutes due to protests from climate campaigners, locking themselves to railings and holding a die-in. As well as the terminal, the airport wants to reduce the night period with no flights by 90 minutes, so instead of the current 8 hours of quiet at night, there would just be  6 and a half hours.  The airport wants to start work in winter 2020, with an opening in 2023. “If we have to go to carbon offsetting, that is what we will do.”  The airport is terrified of not growing. The extra noise will blight the lives of thousands of residents under the flight paths. The decision by the Leeds Council City Plans Panel was to take no view on the pre-application and ask the Airport for further information.

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Leeds Bradford Airport wants to cut night-time period by 90 minutes to just 11.30pm to 6am

Leeds Bradford Airport wants rules that impose a range of night-time flying restrictions to be relaxed, so it can operate more flights. The  current restrictions, since 1993, are that the airport can only operate 4,000 flights a year during the night-time period, which is 11pm to 7am.  Now the airport wants the night-time period reduced from 8 hours to 6.5 hours, so it is from 11.30pm to 6am – an hour and a half less.  The WHO says people should have a quiet period for sleep for 8 hours per night. Most adults need between 7-8 hours of good sleep per night. That is not possible, if the night period is only 6.5 hours. That also does not include planes arriving later than 11.30pm, for delays etc.  The change the airport wants means lots of flights in the “shoulder periods”. ie. between 6am and 7am, and  between 11pm and 11.30pm. This enables airlines to fit in more “rotations” so they can make more return trips to European holiday destination airports, making more money for airlines. The plans will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s on January 30th; the airport may submit a planning application in the coming months.

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