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GALBA Writes to Sec of State About Misleading Northern Powerhouse Letter



Re: Leeds Bradford Airport, application ref no: 20/02559/FU

Dear Mr Jenrick,

I understand that you have received a letter from Henri Murison, on behalf of people describing themselves as employers in the Northern Powerhouse, calling on you to allow the planning application submitted by Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA). I have had sight of the letter (attached) and wish to bring to your attention some important omissions and misleading claims in the letter that misrepresent the issues for you to consider. There are four serious flaws.

1) It claims LBA's planning application does not seek permission to expand the airport’s operations. This is false. Tables in the Environmental Statement of LBA’s application show the ‘baseline’ number of passengers using LBA in 2018 and the numbers in the 2030 ‘with development’ scenario (ie if the application is approved). These show that LBA is proposing to expand from 4 million passengers per year to 7 million and increase flights from 30,000 per year to nearly 46,000. That is clearly an expansion of operations. LBA’s application states that the airport cannot achieve growth to 7 million passengers per year without the extended flying hours and without the new terminal building.

2) It only refers to building a new passenger terminal and makes no mention of the request in LBA’s planning application to extend flying hours by 90 minutes in the day, to start an hour earlier at 06:00 and end 30 minutes later at 23:30. Nor does it mention LBA’s request to reduce restrictions on nighttime flying, leaving no ‘quiet period’ at all. These changes would cause significantly increased noise for tens of thousands of people in both Leeds and Bradford council areas.

3) It completely omits to mention the impact that LBA expansion would have on the climate from the increased greenhouse gas emissions caused by 16,000 extra flights per year. Climate scientists from the University of Leeds have calculated that LBA’s planning application significantly underestimated the quantity of increased greenhouse gases that would result from expansion. As you will be aware, the government has confirmed its intention to include international aviation emissions in its new target to reduce UK emissions by 78% by 2035. The letter also refers to ‘net zero aviation’. However this does not exist. As the CCC has previously advised the government, there is no realistic prospect of zero emission flights on a commercial scale before the middle of the century. That is why the CCC has recommended in its 6th Carbon Budget that there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity.

4) The letter implies that permitting LBA’s planning application would ‘create’ 12,600 jobs. However LBA’s application makes no such claim. It forecasts 1,810 full time new jobs in Leeds or 2,310 in West Yorkshire, with most of the additional 500 in Bradford. We dispute those figures and also believe the limited geographical scope of LBA’s assessment is flawed. Further detail can be found on our website. Furthermore, we note the recent YouGov survey of business travelers, which found that the majority intend to fly less, and the Financial Times report that UK and European banks plan to radically reduce business trips after Covid restrictions are lifted.

We are also aware that some proponents of expansion claim that LBA already has permission to increase by three million passengers a year. This is false. The report by Leeds City Council’s Planning Officer to the February 2021 City Plans Panel Committee meeting, which conditionally approved LBA expansion, says something completely different. The report states that LBA currently has permission to expand to 5 million passengers per year, but not beyond. This is because of the legally binding Section 106 agreement which was attached to the permission given to LBA in 2019, allowing an extension of the existing terminal. LBA signed up to this Section 106 agreement on 29 January 2019. It states that in order to expand beyond 5 million passengers per year, LBA must make a new planning application within 12 months of exceeding a threshold of 4.5 million passengers per year. Further explanation and extracts from the planning officer’s report and Section 106 agreement can be seen on our website.

Our barrister, Estelle Dehon of Cornerstone Barrister, has previously set out in detail the reasons why we believe LBA’s application should be ‘called in’. We stand by that letter and look forward to your decision.

Yours sincerely

Chris Foren

Chair of GALBA

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