Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
9:55 AM 19th February 2021

Leeds Bradford Airport - The Next Cumbria Coal Mine?

On 11 February, Leeds City Council (LCC) provisionally approved a planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA), despite the Council having declared a climate emergency in March 2019. In response the West Yorkshire anti-airport expansion campaign, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), has written to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision on LBA. If he agrees, the airport’s planning application will be dealt with at a public inquiry.

GALBA believes that LBA expansion is the aviation equivalent of the Cumbria coal mine case. There are striking similarities: a local authority decision - made in the same year that the UK hosts COP26 - which would result in significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions and which flatly contradicts the latest advice to government from the Committee on Climate Change in the 6th Carbon Budget.

Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “To say the least, this decision is embarrassing for the UK's reputation as a global leader on tackling the climate crisis. It is also deeply embarrassing for a local authority that says it’s committed to reduce the city’s emissions to net zero by 2030. What’s more, an independent review of the impact of airport expansion on the region’s economy also concluded that it would have a negative effect.”

Chris Foren added: “Robert Jenrick has the power to intervene. But will he? One of the key reasons that Leeds councillors felt able to support airport expansion is because their planning officers told them that international aviation emissions are not a matter for local authorities to consider in the planning process. GALBA believes that is legally incorrect and reserves the option of challenging LCC in the courts. However for now, that's what people have been told, so we are asking national government to take responsibility where local government has failed. The Secretary of State has the power to intervene and he should now exercise that power.”

Estelle Dehon, of Cornerstone Barristers, is acting for GALBA. She said: “Like the Cumbria coal mine decision, there are cogent reasons to say that the conditional approval of Leeds Bradford Airport expansion should be called in by the Secretary of State. The serious climate change impact of the proposal, which is totally out of line with the Climate Change Committee’s guidance on how to reach net zero, means the development would have significant effects beyond its immediate location. Granting permission would commit the UK to greenhouse gas emissions that would contribute to a surge in emissions in the early 2030s; would make the 2050 target much more difficult and costly to achieve and would require reductions in airport capacity elsewhere in the UK. The proposal causes significant effects beyond just LBA and the city of Leeds. It raises the type of issues where consideration at national level, by the Secretary of State, is required.”