Our Story So Far…

Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has been trying to expand since 2020, when they submitted a planning application to Leeds City Council. And GALBA has been working to prevent that expansion ever since.

Jan 2020... LBA presented its plans as a shiny 'green' new terminal building. But, in reality, they want to almost double passenger numbers and fly all night

The 2020 planning application was presented as the opportunity for LBA to build a brand new ‘sustainable’ terminal building.  But, alongside the new building, LBA was also laying the ground for an expansion of passenger numbers from four million a year to seven million.

In order to make that increase possible, LBA asked for permission to increase day time flying hours, to start at 6am and finish at 11.30pm.

There’s no planning limit on the number of flights allowed in the day so this would have meant 90 more minutes for flights, 90 more minutes of noise, early and late in the day, and 90 more minutes of climate wrecking greenhouse gas emissions.

LBA also wanted to remove the cap on night flight numbers, which applies to flights taking off or landing between 11pm and 7am and is set at 4,000 per year, with the majority in the summer season.


February 2022... the Council approved LBA's plans

In February 2022, despite a huge number of objections and high profile resistance to the plans, the Council gave LBA what they wanted and approved the 2020 planning application.

But that was just the beginning of the story.  GALBA then launched a successful campaign to insist that the Council’s decision should be reconsidered by a public inquiry – at which the full climate, noise and pollution impact of expansion would have to be considered.  We collected more than 56,000 signatures on our petition and raised more than £40,000 to pay for our anticipated legal costs.

March 2022... LBA pulled out of public inquiry and dropped its planning application

But instead of confidently defending its plans, LBA withdrew its planning application in early 2022 before the inquiry could even begin.

Despite this huge victory, GALBA did not stop campaigning. We knew that the airport would not give up on its expansion plans so easily so we continued to monitor their every move.

Summer 2022... GALBA caught LBA flying 747 unauthorised night flights - keeping local people awake, damaging their health and causing greenhouse gases

Next, LBA simply broke the night time flying rules by exceeding the cap on flights.

In the summer of 2022, LBA flew 747 more flights than they were allowed.  Effectively 25% of all summer season flights from the airport that year were unauthorised.

Thankfully, as ever, GALBA was monitoring the airport closely and we caught them at it! We reported the rule breach to the Council in late 2022. The Council agreed with us and in 2023 they issued a planning enforcement notice against LBA, instructing them not to do it again or they could face criminal action.

We kept monitoring in summer 2023 and found that LBA had broken the night flight rules again, so we reported them to the Council again. We’re waiting for the Council to make a decision.

Sept 2023... LBA tries to change the night flying rules by the back door!

But before the Council had time to investigate our complaint, LBA tried to find another, back-door way, to increase flight numbers.

It submitted some new planning applications. These ones ask the Council for Certificates of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUDs).

Basically, LBA’s CLEUDs claim that the airport has broken the rules on night time flying continuously for ten years, so the rules no longer apply.

It’s like a burglar saying “I’ve been robbing these houses for so long, you can’t touch me now copper!”

This tactic is both cynical and ridiculous and we are are now in the process of fighting the applications.

January 2024... We're taking the government to court!

Everything that has occurred so far proves that local authorities are not adequately equipped to rule on the climate impact of airport expansions. That is why we are also fighting a national court case.

If successful this will change the planning framework against which local airport expansion decisions will be assessed in future.

Every additional flight, from every local airport, means more greenhouse gas emissions get pumped into the atmosphere, causing even more damage to our climate.

Global temperatures in 2023 were officially the highest ever recorded and we saw extreme weather – floods, wildfires, droughts – all around the planet.

21 UK airports are currently seeking to expand – with plans to increase capacity to 60% above pre-pandemic capacity.  And there are currently no mechanisms in place to limit this cumulative damage. In fact, as things stand, if one airport is allowed to grow, it makes it harder for local planners to refuse another.

Emissions from the aviation industry are expected to be the second highest of all sectors of the UK economy by 2050 unless something radically changes.

The industry is hyping alternative aviation fuels and new technology as the solution to its emissions problem.

And the government supports this, so much so that its Jet Zero strategy for cutting aviation emissions to net zero by 2050 relies almost entirely on techno-fixes.

The problem is that no independent scientific analysts believe those techno-fixes will work – and that includes the government’s own expert advisers on the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The CCC has repeatedly told the government that there should be no expansion of UK airport capacity unless emissions from aviation are proven to be falling fast – which isn’t happening.

But the current government has ignored its experts and supports the expansion of airports, claiming new technology and fuels will sort everything out – one day, maybe…

What next? We'll do whatever is necessary to protect our communities from more planes, more noise, more pollution and more climate chaos

So GALBA has taken a judicial review legal challenge against the government’s Jet Zero strategy, asking the courts to send Jet Zero back to the drawing board.

We don’t yet have a court hearing date but it is likely to be in 2024.

We hope that the courts and the next government – whoever that is – will take its climate commitments more seriously and listen to the advice of the experts on the Climate Change Committee.

Looking forwards, GALBA will do whatever is needed to fight the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport and the expansion of all airports. We believe that aviation workers deserve to work in a clean, green, sustainable industry.

We believe local people, and citizens of the whole world, deserve a more peaceful, healthier future in a world unthreatened by runaway climate breakdown.

Leeds Bradford Airport is big enough already