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Leeds Bradford Airport boss accepts night time flying rules ‘may have been broken’ last summer

May 18 2023

The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) says the airport’s boss has accepted that LBA broke the rules on night time flying in the 2022 summer season. GALBA now wants Leeds City Council to make an immediate decision on their complaint about the rule breaking, which was submitted to the Council’s enforcement team seven months ago.

Vincent Hodder, LBA’s Chief Executive Officer, told the latest meeting of the airport’s consultative committee: “It looks like there may have been a breach in the summer, night time movement cap but this is still to be confirmed.” He also admitted that flights in April should be included in the summer season figures but that LBA has failed to report those flights for many years.

Our monitoring found there were more than 600 flights from LBA above the limit for night time flying last summer. Mr Hodder has all but admitted this.

Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “Our monitoring found there were more than 600 flights from LBA above the limit for night time flying last summer. Mr Hodder has all but admitted this, so our complaint to Leeds City Council is justified. He also said he was meeting with the Council about this at the end of March.”

“So we cannot understand why it’s taking the Council’s enforcement team so long to make a simple decision. Our complaint was made in October last year, it’s now May, the 2023 summer season is well under way and they’ve done nothing. What on earth is going on?”

“There’s a very straightforward rule that limits the number of flights at night. That rule exists to protect the health and wellbeing of residents under the flight path. Medical research has repeatedly shown that excessive noise, especially at night, is linked to serious mental and physical health problems.”

“The rule was designed by the Council and agreed to by LBA but it seems LBA has ignored the rule and the Council didn’t do proper monitoring. The Council still hasn’t done anything to enforce the rule. So it’s left to us, GALBA, to be the grown ups and take responsibility on behalf of local people.”

Chris added: “We’re concerned that LBA and the Council may be cooking up a deal to let the airport off the hook. We’re watching very closely and we will take legal action if the Council doesn’t take enforcement action.”

"There’s a very straightforward rule that limits the number of flights at night. That rule exists to protect the health and wellbeing of residents under the flight path."

Additional notes

Airport Consultative Committee: the meeting was held on 15 March but the minutes were only released on 15 May – a copy is attached. Responding to a question about night flights in summer 2022, the minutes say Mr Hodder said: “We have a meeting with Leeds City Council at the end of the month to discuss what has happened and why. It looks like there may have been a breach in the summer, night time movement cap but this is still to be confirmed… There are differences in how the planning conditions can be interpreted which is something we are working through with LCC.”

A member of the LBA Supporters Group also said at the meeting: “… the reporting of summer night flights historically by LCC was for the period May-October, and reporting to the Plans Panel was on this basis for a large number of years” to which Mr Hodder replied: “Historically this appears to have been how the reporting of night flights took place by LCC, and LBA are in discussions with them regarding this and any potential enforcement action.”

Night flight rules: LBA operates under a cap on night time flights under its current planning conditions. Leeds City Council has responsibility for monitoring and enforcing those conditions. They define the Summer Season as British Summer Time, which was 27 March to 30 October in 2022. The night time period is defined as 23:00 to 07:00 and an aircraft movement is defined as a landing or a departure. The 2023 Summer Season began on 26 March.

The maximum number of night time aircraft movements in the Summer Season is set at 2,800 and in the Winter Season at 1,200. Up to 10% of ‘unused’ night flights from the previous season may be transferred to the next season. Due to the impact of the pandemic during the previous winter season, the cap of 1,200 was not reached. Consequently, the limit on night time aircraft movements during the 2022 Summer Season was 2,920.

Summer Season 2022 night flights: GALBA monitored the number of night flights over the summer season using real time flight data information available online. GALBA recorded a total of 3536 night flights, which is more than 600 above the limit.

Delayed Flights: GALBA is aware of comments by the CEO of LBA that delayed flights do not count towards the quota. This is false. The delayed flight exception applies only to older, and noisier, aircraft that are not normally allowed to fly at night at all. None of these older types of aircraft now operate at LBA, so the ‘delayed flight exemption’ does not  apply. GALBA also notes that delayed flights only make up a small number of total night flights and would not, in any case, explain the breach of the conditions. In fact, LBA scheduled more night flights than is allowed, so if all aircraft had operated at their scheduled time, the quota would still have been exceeded.

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