LBA Mythbusters

LBA wants people to believe all sorts of myths about their expansion plans. And we're more than happy to debunk those myths.

Myth 1: Leeds Bradford Airport can expand to seven million passengers a year even after withdrawing its 2020 planning application

In 2019, LBA was given permission to build an extension to the existing terminal building, which they say they will do now. However, in 2019 they were not given permission to extend daytime flying hours by 90 mins, which they wanted to do in their 2020 planning application. Nor did the 2019 permission allow LBA to remove the 4,000 per year cap on the number of flights allowed at night. These were both requested in the now-withdrawn 2020 planning application, so they cannot happen.

This means that during the all important 6-7am slot, LBA can only accommodate five or six flights in the first wave of departures to European destinations. Compare this to LBA’s predictions, in the withdrawn 2020 application, of 17 flights and you can see that they fall way short of what they need to achieve passenger growth of seven million per year. So the changes to flight controls were very important to LBA’s plans for 16,000 more flights per year by 2030 and will not now happen.

Think about it. Why would they have gone to the time and expense of making the 2020 application if they didn’t need it? In that now withdrawn planning application, they acknowledged that they needed changes to the current ‘operating restrictions’ (ie the flying hours) in order to reach seven million passengers per year. They said: “The Airport is forecast to continue to grow over the next decade, reaching seven million passengers per annum by 2030, assuming that existing operational restrictions imposed by existing planning controls are amended through the current planning application” Environmental Statement, Introduction, para 1.1.4.

Section 106 Contractual Agreement

​Furthermore, there’s a legal contract between LBA and the Council which limits passenger numbers to five million per year. Although LBA never acknowledges this in the press, this limit applies to the 2019 planning permission. The report of the Council’s Chief Planning Officer to the City Plans Panel meeting in February 2021 said in para 5: “Members will also recall that a planning application was submitted at the end of 2018 for a terminal extension, which was granted permission in 2019. This allowed for expansion of passengers to 5 million per annum by the year 2023.”

LBA’s withdrawn 2020 application also stated: “The more recent [2019] grant of planning permission for the terminal building extension, retains the same controls on ATMs [Air Traffic Movements] during the period 2300-0700 … There is, however, a Section 106 Agreement associated with this extension proposal that requires LBA to make a planning application once the passenger throughput exceeds 4.5 million passengers per annum, to demonstrate what would be necessary in order to facilitate annual passenger throughput in excess of 5 million passengers per annum.” Chapter 3 of the Environmental Impact Assessment, para 3.6.16.

LBA’s CEO has suggested the airport could ignore the Section 106 agreement. This is not correct. The 2019 planning permission to extend the existing terminal expressly controls passenger numbers. The Section 106 agreement limits any expansion that would result in passenger numbers consistently above 4.5 million. The agreement recognises that surface access arrangements cannot easily cope beyond that number of passengers and that new transport, travel and other arrangements are needed for expansion beyond five million. LBA has never reached 4.5 million passengers per year and has withdrawn its latest planning application. So is LBA’s CEO proposing to break the airport’s contract with the Council? GALBA has invited him to publish a written explanation of why he believes LBA can ignore a legally binding contract with Leeds City Council but he has repeatedly refused.

Here’s the all important clause 6.2 of the Second Schedule to the Section 106 agreement. It states: “Not later than 12 months of the annual passenger throughput at the Airport under the Planning Permission exceeding 4.5 million passenger per annum LBA shall submit a planning application … for such further development at the Airport requiring express planning permission as would be necessary to facilitate an annual passenger throughput in excess of 5 million passenger per annum.”




Myth 2: Leeds Bradford Airport can fly unlimited night-flights with certain types of planes

Soon after LBA withdrew its application for a new terminal building and to change its flying hours, Mr Hodder, the CEO of LBA, popped up on television claiming that by extending the existing terminal and taking “…the approvals that we already have and work with those in a really creative way…”, LBA can still expand to seven million passengers a year.

​The night-time restrictions operating at the airport began in 1993. They have been carried forward unchanged to today and apply to the current planning permission to extend the existing terminal. Mr Hodder says, “Those restrictions that we have on the number of flights operated during the night-time hours don’t apply to the new generation of more efficient, quieter aircraft.”

Let’s take a look at this claim and see just how absurd it is.

​In 1993 planes were categorised into QC bands based on how much noise they make. The quieter the plane, the lower the QC band. As new planes have come into service, the QC bands have been constantly reviewed and adapted to take account of newer, quieter planes.

When the current planning conditions were written in 1993, QC0.5 was the lowest category, and anything below that was classed as exempt subject to a weight limit.

Mr Hodder is ‘creatively’ interpreting these outdated rules to claim that newer planes with QC of 0.25 and 0.125 are exempt and therefore do not count toward the cap of 4,000 night-flights per year. If they don’t count to towards the night-time cap, an unlimited number can fly and, hey presto, LBA can get to seven million passengers. That sounds reasonable so far.

​It would be if it were not for the fact that he’s forgetting about the weight limit! For a plane to be exempt it must weigh less than 11,600kg. This rules out all commercial jet airliners, meaning that none of the newer planes can fly – the opposite of what Mr Hodder says.

Myth 3: Leeds Bradford Airport do not need to count delayed night flights towards the limit

LBA’s claim is based on condition 9) of the current planning permission in operation at the airport. This condition was included in 1993 to allow for noisy planes, such as larger jumbo jets that were in use back then, to land at night if they were subject to a delay. It does not apply to any of the planes in operation today. It states that:

9) Movements in the night-time period by aircraft defined by conditions 4 and 5 will only be permissible in the following circumstances:
a. Delayed landings up to 0100 hours by aircraft scheduled to land at Leeds-Bradford Airport (LBA) between 0700 hours and 2300 hours.
b. An emergency, i.e. a flight where there is an immediate danger to life or health, whether human or animal. Aircraft movements in these categories are exempt from night-time restrictions and will not count against the night-time period limits specified in condition 7.

This sounds like it contains an exception for delayed flights up to 01:00, until you read conditions 4) and 5):

4) No departures in the night-time period shall take place by aircraft with quota counts of 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 on take-off.
5) No landings in the night-time period shall take place by aircraft with quota counts of 2, 4, 8 and 16 on landing.

So condition 9) permits only delayed landings that are not normally allowed to land at night and which do not currently operate during the day (QC2 and above). All planes currently operating at LBA are QC1 or lower.

The only circumstances in which a flight is not counted towards the quota is when it is an emergency, i.e. a flight where there is an immediate danger to life or health.

Leeds Bradford Airport is big enough already