Government should call in Leeds Bradford airport expansion plans, due to climate impact
The government is under growing pressure to halt a proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, which critics say would wreck efforts to tackle the climate and ecological crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of the COP in Glasgow in November. The expansion would allow an increase in passengers from 4 to 7 million per year by 2030. It was recently given conditional approval by Leeds city council despite widespread opposition from local MPs, councils, residents and environmental groups. Lawyers have written to Sec of State Robert Jenrick asking for the decision to be “called in.” A Leeds University climate scientist, Jefim Vogel, says the airport expansion would only benefit “relatively few people”, and would contribute towards a global climate catastrophe. The Leeds Council decision illustrated how many councillors don’t fully comprehend the severity and urgency of the global climate situation. Jefim told councillors: “If we allow the climate crisis to escalate, it will make the COVID crisis look like a bed of roses. The climate crisis stands above short-term economics. Millions of lives and livelihoods and the safety of human civilisation are at risk.” The emissions from flights using the expanded airport would dwarf those of the rest of the city.
Government under pressure to stop Leeds Bradford airport expansion
Critics say plan would wreck efforts to tackle climate crisis and undermine UK credibility ahead of Cop26
By Matthew Taylor (The Guardian)
25 Feb 2021
The government is under growing pressure to halt a proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, which critics say would wreck efforts to tackle the ecological crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of a key climate conference later this year.
The expansion plans, which would support an increase in passengers from 4 to 7 million people a year by 2030, were given conditional approval by Leeds city council earlier this month despite widespread opposition from local MPs, residents and environmental groups.
Now the same lawyers who are taking on the government over a proposed new coalmine in Cumbria have written to the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Robert Jenrick, on behalf of campaigners asking him to “call in” the decision.
“[The] expansion would commit the UK to decades of increased carbon emissions, against the Climate Change Committee’s advice,” said barrister Estelle Dehon, who is acting on behalf of the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (Galba). “As with the proposed Cumbrian coalmine, allowing this in the year we host Cop26 undermines the UK’s ambition to lead on the climate crisis.”
Dehon said the “call-in” process would allow the national and international ramifications of granting permission for both the airport to be considered.
Supporters of the project say the airport expansion would boost the local economy by hundreds of millions of pounds and support thousands of new jobs.
However, critics dispute the figures and say it would lock the region into a diminishing carbon intensive economic future. A report from the New Economics Foundation, commissioned by campaigners, found that there would be little if any economic benefit, adding that if the impact of more people holidaying abroad rather than in the UK was factored in, the expansion would actually be a drain on the economy.
Leeds Bradford is one of several airports – including Stansted, Southampton and Bristol – that are attempting to get backing for expansion proposals in the coming months.
A spokesperson for Leeds Bradford airport said the planned increase in passengers at the airport was not dependent on the expansion, but would ensure it was able to “deliver the level of passenger experience it aspires to”.
They added: “We are pleased with the support for a replacement terminal and the recognition by Leeds city council that our proposals are compliant with local, national planning policy and national aviation policy.”
Leeds city council said it had looked at all aspects of the plans, adding: “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.”
But green groups say the government must get a grip on high carbon infrastructure schemes – being given the go-ahead by local councils – if it is to have any credibility in the fight against climate breakdown.
Ariana Densham from Greenpeace said: “From new coalmines to expanding airports, the government has a deeply concerning, but growing habit of recklessly passing the buck on the signoff of polluting mega-projects. These are local decisions that will have global consequences.”
The scheme has also been criticised by local MPs, five of whom signed a letter alongside councillors, environmental groups and climate scientists calling for the plans to be scrapped.
“Expansion would mean health damaging increases in noise, traffic and air pollution for thousands of people in our local communities,” it stated.” Above all, it would mean a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions exactly when we need to cut them to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Local Communities and Government said that because of the scale of the proposed development and its green belt location the application, if given final approval by the council, “will be referred to the secretary of state”.
However, Dehon said this did not answer campaigners’ climate concerns. “[The government’s] response has been to put off any decision about call-in, because at some future point the council is obliged to refer the green belt impact to Mr Jenrick so he can consider call-in on that basis. This delay is unjustified. And green belt referral is no guarantee that the decision will be called in.”
Climate scientist calls for legal challenge to Leeds Bradford Airport decision
A Leeds climate scientist has added to growing calls for a legal challenge against the £150m expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport, which was approved in principle by council planners this week.
By Richard Beecham (Yorkshire Evening Post)
15th February 2021
Jefim Vogel is an academic at the University of Leeds whose research covers the effects of carbon emissions on the natural world. He believes the decision made by Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel this week would only benefit “relatively few people”, and would contribute towards a global climate catastrophe.
It follows calls today from campaign group GALBA vowed to launch a legal challenge against the decision.
Mr Vogel, who was one of 23 objectors speaking at the meeting, said he would support such a move, adding: “I am very disappointed at the outcome. The debate made clear that a lot of the councillors don’t fully embrace the urgency of the situation and what it requires.
“It deflects responsibility to Westminster, and focuses on short-term economic benefits – it shows we are dealing with the big questions about what matters to us as a society. Should you prioritise people’s lives or something that will benefit relatively few.”
So what could be next for the campaigners?
“It is my understanding that it is open to legal challenge because it does not fully consider the environmental impact,” he added. “So I would definitely embrace an appeal.
“I think it is fundamentally wrong to approve it – it’s been approved for the wrong reasons and flawed analysis.
“A lot of arguments are around economic growth, and ‘if we don’t, Manchester will’. I don’t think the arguments against this have been fully put on the table.”
During the meeting, each objector against the plans was allotted only two minutes to make their case to plans panel members, such was the huge number of those wanting to speak.
Jefim told members: “If we allow the climate crisis to escalate, it will make the COVID crisis look like a bed of roses. The climate crisis stands above short-term economics. Millions of lives and livelihoods and the safety of human civilisation are at risk. That must be your number one priority today.
“With expansion, the true airport emissions would not be within the Department for Transport’s provision for LBA but would be more than double that. And they would alone exceed the maximum emissions allowance for the whole of Leeds, which would make it impossible for Leeds to meet its climate targets.”
Following an emotionally-charged eight and a half hour debate, councillors voted by nine to five in favour of the airport expansion. The decision is expected to be officially rubber-stamped at a later date once the developers make tweaks to their proposals.
GALBA has written to Sec of State, Robert Jenrick, asking that the Leeds Bradford airport application is “called in”
On 11 February, Leeds City Council (LCC) provisionally approved a planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA), despite the Council having declared a climate emergency in March 2019. Now anti-airport expansion campaign, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), has written – through their Barrister, Estelle Dehon – to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State at DCLG, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision on LBA. If he agrees, the airport’s planning application will be dealt with at a public inquiry. GALBA believes that LBA expansion is the aviation equivalent of the Cumbria coal mine case. There are striking similarities: a local authority decision which would result in significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions and which flatly contradicts the latest advice to government from the Committee on Climate Change in the 6th Carbon Budget. One of the key reasons that Leeds councillors felt able to support airport expansion is because their planning officers told them that international aviation emissions are not a matter for local authorities to consider in the planning process. GALBA believes that is legally incorrect and reserves the option of challenging LCC in the courts. The planned expansion raises the type of issues where consideration at national level, by the Secretary of State, is required.”
Leeds City Council approves Leeds Bradford airport plans for new terminal (ie. more passengers, more carbon, more noise)
Leeds City Council has approved (subject to additional conditions still to be negotiated) Leeds Bradford Airport’s plans for a larger terminal to accommodate more passengers. This decision will entrench in the Leeds economy the growth of a carbon intensive industry. There is no certainty that the promised jobs will actually materialise, as the sector increasingly automates work. Objectors including climate scientists, transport experts and residents’ groups, warned such an expansion would help facilitate catastrophic climate change, as well as unbearable levels of noise pollution for those living close by. 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. There are also plans to modify flight time controls, and to reduce the night-time flight period, with a likely increase from 5 to 17 flights between 6am and 7am. A professor of transport planning said there are inadequate contributions to road and rail infrastructure. Local group GALBA says there could still be a legal decision against the proposals.
Open Letter to Leeds City Council – MPs, Councillors, Scientists and Community Groups ask them to oppose Leeds Bradford airport expansion
An open letter has been sent to Leeds City Council (LCC) councillors, written by local opposition group GALBA & supported by 114 various groups, councils, organisations, residents’ associations and climate scientists. They ask the council to decide (on 11th February) against allowing expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, by NOT allowing the building of a new terminal. The work is designed to increase passengers from 4 million a year to 7 million by 2030. The letter says: “Expansion would mean health damaging increases in noise, traffic and air pollution for thousands of people in our local communities. Above all, it would mean a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions exactly when we need to cut them to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis. Expansion would be fundamentally wrong. Leeds City Council has declared a Climate Emergency and aims to reach net zero carbon by 2030. Yet from 2030 onwards, aircraft from an expanded airport would pump out more greenhouse gases than the whole of the rest of the city. Allowing LBA to expand would immediately make the Council’s own net zero target impossible.”