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Press Release: LBA Expansion Could See Up to £3.1bn Leave the Local Economy in Economic Recession

New analysis shows that plans for the airport’s expansion also overestimated the number of new jobs by over a third.

The proposed Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could cost the Leeds City Region up to £3.1bn in lost economic activity by 2050, according to new analysis published today by the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

The report highlights that the expansion plans do not include the cost to Leeds of lost money caused by tourists flying out of the region, arguing that, at a time when the UK leisure and hospitality industry is in deep recession, the proposed expansion is not economically wise.

The report also finds that the expansion plan overestimates the amount of new jobs the scheme would create by 33%, does not address the airport’s ambitions to automate more of its jobs or the likely reduction in jobs in the aviation sector and understates the potential carbon emissions, poor air quality, and impact on the climate crisis. If approved, the expansion would likely be the largest single driver of growth in carbon emissions in the Leeds City Region.

The analysis found that:

  • The cost of tourists flying out of the region for international travel could see up to £3.1bn leave the Leeds City Region economy between 2024 and 2050.

  • The application for the Leeds Bradford Airport expansion overestimated the amount of jobs which would be created by the scheme by 33%. The application contradicted the airport’s own stated ambitions to automate more work in the airport, and ignored wider trends in the sector towards fewer jobs.

  • The negative impacts of noise and air pollution, carbon emissions and improving transport connections to the airport is likely to cost £883m between 2024 and 2050. If approved, the expansion would likely be the largest single driver of growth in carbon emissions in the Leeds City Region.

The report describes the airport’s economic case for expansion as “selective and logically inconsistent”, particularly regarding whether costs – like noise pollution – or benefits – like new jobs – will be newly created or relocated from elsewhere in the country. The airport claims that the scheme’s biggest benefits would be newly created but its most significant cost, the outflow of international tourism, is not modelled. The expansion application has also claimed that it would create new business productivity, despite the Covid-19 crisis leading to a trend away from flying for business.

The NEF report highlights that, when all of the scheme’s costs and benefits are considered together, the overall ‘net’ impact of the scheme is likely to be highly negative, for both the Leeds City Region and the UK at large.

Alex Chapman, consultant at the New Economics Foundation, said:

“The climate change risks of the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport are obvious. What is discussed less is that the economic benefits the scheme claims to create are based on inconsistent and logically flawed economics.
“The proposed jobs will not materialise because the aviation industry is automating, creating less and less jobs, and this trend has just accelerated through the Covid-19 crisis. The predicted business benefits are overstated, because businesses are making less and less use of air travel, especially in the fallout from coronavirus. Finally, the airport ignores the negative impacts of incentivising Leeds City Region residents to take cheap flights out of the country, instead of spending their money in the local economy. With the leisure and hospitality industries on their knees, this expansion would damage the local recovery from the Covid pandemic.”

Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West said:

“The current Covid crisis is exposing the need to look at new forms of employment and transition workers through skilling up and investment into these new clean, green jobs including in transport. Aviation has taken a huge hit over Covid and sadly Leeds Bradford Airport has suffered, this has happened quickly but there will be a long term move away from high carbon industries which aviation is near the top of currently, so now is the time for new thinking and repurposing sites not new carbon intensive jobs.”

Jonathan Bentley, Lib Dem councillor on Leeds City Council said:

“The proposed expansion of the airport is a major step backwards in the fight to tackle the impacts of climate change. We welcome new investment and new jobs, but investment must be sustainable, benefiting the environment and all our residents”

Paul Chatterton, professor of urban futures at Leeds University, said:

“What this report makes clear is what we already know. We need good green jobs as part of the Covid recovery, but the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport is not the way to do this. Instead, we should be investing in community businesses and cooperatives near where people live. This can help reduce travel times, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions, and most importantly generate meaningful, well paid, secure work that respond to community needs.”

Additional notes:

1) The New Economics Foundation is a charitable thinktank. We are wholly independent of political parties and committed to being transparent about how we are funded.

The report, Supplementary analysis of the economic case for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport is available here.

NEF Consulting aviation experts analysed the business case for the expansion of the airport put forward in the Environment Statement (available on the Leeds City Council Planning Portal). The evaluation appraises the socioeconomic and climate change submissions against the guidelines set out in the Department for Transport’s official Transport Analysis Guidance (TAG) alongside other key government guidance documents. In some cases, where the applicant (the airport) has failed to complete a recommended appraisal step NEF Consulting conduct original modelling according with the TAG guidance in order to generate original estimates. NEF Consulting’s modelling is limited by the data made available by the airport. Where high level of uncertainty prevails NEF provide a range of modelled estimates.

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