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GALBA Calls on Leeds City Council to Remain Neutral at LBA Public Inquiry

Today, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has written to Leeds councillors asking them to support their call for the Council to remain ‘strictly neutral’ at the public inquiry into LBA expansion. The inquiry will begin in September this year and will be held in Leeds.

Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, explained why the anti-expansion group is calling for neutrality: “For one thing, the Council would save a great deal of money by choosing to be neutral. Let’s be honest, there are more important ways to use the Council’s limited funds than paying for lawyers and private consultants at the inquiry. Our front line local services are really stretched and need every penny they can get.”

He continued: “All the way through the planning application process, Leeds councillors and planning officers said that the problem of increasing greenhouse gases from an expanded airport should be a matter for national decision makers, considering national policies. That is exactly what the public inquiry will do. So taking a neutral position would be consistent with the Council’s own statements.”

“More than that, if the Council chose to take an active pro-expansion position at the inquiry, it would be completely inconsistent with its declaration of a Climate Emergency. Some people seem to think that choosing neutrality would create a ‘democratic deficit’. But the Climate Emergency declaration was made at a full Council meeting in 2019, with overwhelming cross-party support. The decision to allow LBA expansion was made by just a few City Plans Panel members. Which is the bigger ‘democratic deficit’?”

Planning regulations do not require local authorities to adopt a pro, anti or neutral stance in relation to planning applications at public inquiries. It is up to each Council to decide. Last year, Cumbria County Council chose to remain neutral at the public inquiry into a controversial new coal mine, even though they had previously given approval for the mine. There would be no risk of LBA seeking a costs award against Leeds City Council if it chooses to adopt a ‘strictly neutral’ stance.

Additional notes:

1) Letter to Leeds councillors: copy attached

220222 LCC Cllrs neutrality
Download DOCX • 19KB

2) Public Inquiry into LBA expansion: the decision to ‘call in’ LBA’s planning application and hold a public inquiry was announced by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, on 19 January, and will commence on 13 September in Leeds.

3) 54,000 people signed GALBA petition: in May 2021, three West Yorkshire teenagers hand delivered a petition supporting GALBA’s request for a public inquiry to the Dept for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It was signed by over 54,000 people from all over the UK.

4) Expert policy advice: Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said last year, ​“There is not any space for airport expansion” if the UK is to meet its climate goals. The CCC’s policy recommendation is for ​“no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand”. That test has not been met and will not be met for many years to come.

5) Climate science and LBA expansion: the Leeds Climate Commission and experts in climate science from the University of Leeds have calculated that LBA’s proposals mean greenhouse gas emissions from the airport would exceed the amount allowed for the whole of Leeds, as set out in the Leeds Carbon Reduction Roadmap, from 2026 onwards. See the report here.

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