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GALBA’s response to LBA’s Q&A about its CLEUD applications

 

Below we answer the questions posed by LBA in its Q&A, dated 27 September 2023. We highlight the issues that were not addressed in LBA’s document.

 

Is Leeds Bradford Airport trying to operate more night flights?

Yes, LBA is seeking a reinterpretation of the existing rules that limit night time flying. These rules were applied by LCC when LBA broke the rules last year and LCC issued a breach of condition notice. So it is clear that LCC has no doubt what the rules mean and it is LBA’s wish to change that meaning. It is only LBA that professes to be ‘confused’ about the current rules. The result of LBA’s proposed reinterpretation of the rules would permit some types of planes to fly in unlimited numbers at night, without counting towards the cap on night flights; and it would mean that all late arrivals, of all types of plane, up to 1am are not counted towards the cap on night flights. In plain English, this is an attempt to gain permission for a major rise in night time flying.

 

Operating more night flights is LBA’s top priority. Only by offering more night flight slots can LBA attract more airlines. Airlines want 24 hour airports, with as few restrictions as possible, so that they can maximise the number of flights that each aircraft can make, thus increasing profits at the expense of local people and the climate. Relaxing the night flight restrictions was the key part of LBA’s 2020 expansion planning application, which was withdrawn.

 

In 2022, LBA were caught operating 25% more night flights than allowed. They don’t like the rules so they want to reinterpret them. The rules are clear. If they were genuinely confused and needed clarification, they could simply ask LCC. Instead LBA have supplied their own interpretations which are completely at odds with the current rules. If the newer aircraft and delayed flights are taken out of the cap on night time flying, as LBA wants, the inevitable result will be more night flights.

 

Why has LBA applied for Certificates of Lawfulness for Existing Use or Development (CLEUDs)?

LBA had an opportunity in 2022 to ‘clarify’ the meaning of the rules by proceeding to a public inquiry, after the Secretary of State called in their 2020 planning application. However, LBA chose not to proceed with that inquiry and instead withdrew their planning application. The key point about LBA’s CLEUD application is that it seeks to ‘clarify’ the existing night flight restrictions in such a way that it would remove certain types of planes and all late arrivals up to 1am from the cap on night time flying. That would clearly permit a major rise in night time flying.

 

LBA make much about the current conditions being written 30 years ago. The key point is that as long as 30 years ago, the serious health impact of night flight noise was understood, hence the conditions were implemented to protect public health. They remain as relevant today as they did then. LBA’s ‘clarification’ aims to remove certain types of aircraft and all delayed flights from the cap on night flights. This was never the intention of the planning conditions. Those extra aircraft would have an environmental and health impact which has to be assessed. By making a CLEUD application, LBA hoped to avoid this scrutiny.   

 

Why has LBA chosen to pursue this process that does not allow for public comment? Is it anti-democratic?

LBA could have simply submitted an application to vary the current conditions. This would have allowed the usual level of public engagement and scrutiny by elected members. It would have involved assessing the environmental and health impacts of the proposed changes. However, LBA chose to side step this scrutiny. The process chosen by LBA is self evidently anti-democratic and unfair. It excludes elected councillors ans the very people who would be most affected by LBA’s reinterpretation of the existing rules would also have been excluded from making any comments.

 

However LCC has now decided to open consultation, albeit with a limited scope, as LCC has issued a call for evidence on two of the CLEUD applications. However this is limited to factual evidence, when LBA is trying to reinterpret the meaning of the rules. It is not clear yet what will happen with the three other applications.

 

What are the specific CLEUDs LBA has submitted?

LBA are prohibited from allowing certain noisy aircraft (QC1) from taking off at night - LBA want to remove that restriction. Other than small aircraft, all night flights must be counted towards the cap on night time flying - LBA want to remove all restrictions from newer aircraft.

 

They also want to exclude all types of delayed aircraft from the cap. Currently, if an aircraft is scheduled to land or take off before 11pm but is delayed until after 11pm (pushing it into night time) it still counts towards the cap on night flights. This is as it should be and is balanced by aircraft that are scheduled to operate before 7am but are delayed until after 7am (after night time ends).

 

LBA want to exclude all aircraft delayed after 11pm up to 1am from the cap. This is a fundamental change to the way the condition works and seems clearly designed to allow LBA to schedule arrivals right up to 11pm, in the knowledge that the inevitable delays won’t be counted towards the cap on night flights.

 

The result of all these changes would mean more flights, more noise and more greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Why has LBA submitted these specific CLEUDs?

CLEUD 1) would allow noisier planes (QC1) to take off at night.

CLEUDS 2) and 3) work together to remove QC0.25 (newer planes) from the night time cap, allowing these types of planes to fly in unlimited numbers, with immunity from enforcement of the cap on night time flying.

CLEUD 4) concerns an ‘ambiguity’ of which document defines ‘exempt’ planes.

CLEUD 5) allows all delayed flights, of all types of planes, up to 1am to be excluded from the night time cap.

 

Some of these might sound relatively trivial individually, but together they add up to a new night time noise regime that would be far more negatively impactful than was sought in the airport’s now withdrawn 2020 planning application. It appears it would permit the noisiest use of LBA ever and one of the most relaxed regulations in the country at a commercial airport.

 

LBA suggests that the current conditions prohibit more modem, QC0.25 aircraft from flying at night. This is not the case and this has previously been clarified by LCC. These aircraft can fly and they do count towards the cap on night flights - they are jet airliners, not light aircraft. LBA’s proposed reinterpretation of the conditions seeks not only to state that these aircraft can fly, but adds that they should be immune from any restrictions. In other words, they should not count towards the night flight cap and could fly in unlimited numbers.

 

What are LBA’s current night movements?

GALBA’s monitoring shows that by 28 September, LBA had exceeded the limit of 2,920 night flights for the summer season, as it did last year. GALBA used exactly the same monitoring process in 2023 as in 2022, when our complaint about excess nighttime flying was upheld by LCC, who issued LBA with a breach of condition notice in June 2023.

 

What is stopping LBA operating more night flights?

LBA’s Q&A focuses on the airport’s existing and near term capacity. This deliberately misses the key point about the CLEUD application. If LBA‘s reinterpretation of the existing night time flying conditions is adopted, there would be no rules in place to prevent a major increase in night time flying in the future, if the capacity of the airport is increased. After LBA withdrew the 2020 expansion application Mr Hodder made the claim that the airport can expand anyway.

 

Did LBA breach its night movement restrictions in 2022?

Yes, and they’ve done it again in 2023.

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