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Local residents fear another ‘sleepless summer’ because of night-flight breaches

March 22 2023 • 3 minute read

Sunday will mark the start of Leeds Bradford Airport’s 2023 Summer Season but local residents and campaigners are still waiting for Leeds City Council to make a decision on their complaint that the airport broke the night time flying rules in the 2022 Summer Season.

The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) made a formal complaint to Leeds City Council in October last year because their monitoring revealed the airport had exceeded the number of permitted night flights by over 600 between April and October. The Council said it was investigating the complaint but, after five months, no decision has been made.

Night flights are strictly limited by a planning condition imposed by Leeds City Council. This is for a good reason. Medical research has repeatedly shown that noise causes mental and physical health problems.

Andy Tait, who lives under the flight path, said: “Night flights are strictly limited by a planning condition imposed by Leeds City Council. This is for a good reason. Medical research has repeatedly shown that noise causes mental and physical health problems. And, of course, every additional flight means more air pollution and more damage to our climate.”

“We’ve given the Council all our monitoring data and the airport has handed over theirs too. So why on earth is it taking them so long to make a decision?”

Victoria Smith, who also lives under the flight path, said: “Last summer was a nightmare for me, with incredibly loud noise from flights starting at 6am and going on till 3 or 4 the following morning. I don’t begrudge anyone their annual holiday but there has to be a limit on the amount of flying at night and the airport has to stick to those limits. They didn’t and no one is doing anything about it.”

“Why isn’t Leeds City Council enforcing its own rules? They have a responsibility to their citizens but they’re just sitting on their hands and now we face the prospect of another sleepless summer.”

“Last summer was a nightmare for me, with incredibly loud noise from flights starting at 6am and going on till 3 or 4 the following morning."

Additional notes

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 hours 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: 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 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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