Land release plan to aid Leeds Bradford Airport gets green light amid protest

Proposals to aid the expansion of a growing Yorkshire airport have been given the backing of council leaders despite very visible opposition.

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Around a dozen protestors and north Leeds residents from the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement voiced their concerns over Leeds City Council’s plans to release 36.2 hectares of land in and around Leeds Bradford Airport’s Yeadon site, in the north west of the city, to support its growth.

Placards stating ‘Save Greenbelt, No Airport Growth’ were waved outside Leeds Civic Hall before councillors backed the land release yesterday.

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It is thought that the land could be used to expand the passenger terminal, develop possible new transport links and create an “airport village” boasting a hotel, restaurants and shops.

Coun Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for transport, said: “We’ve made a huge commitment as a council to the expansion of the airport, it’s now the job of the airport to realise quite the commitment we’ve made and act in support of that.”

He said allocating the land for future development will “bolster the airport’s continued success” and ensure a major employment site in north west Leeds continues to thrive.

Leeds Bradford Airport is a major economic asset for West Yorkshire, supporting more than 2,600 jobs and contributing in excess of £100million a year to the regional economy.

The city council pledged to support its continued expansion as one of the UK’s fastest growing airports last year as the facility aims to more than double its number of passengers per year to 7.1m by 2030.

Coun Andrew Carter, leader of the Conservative group, backed the idea of the land release but sought reassurance on the level of contact with residents over future plans.

He said: “We are all aware improved access is imperative but there needs to be thorough consultation.”

Coun Stewart Golton, who is leader of the Lib Dems, described the Yeadon area as “quite congested” but said the move should help Leeds create a “21st Century air transport hub”.

The leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake, described connectivity to the site as “absolutely key”, adding better transport links could spark further growth.

She said: “The different forms of transport, being able to access it from rail to road, really open up some real opportunities.”

Despite the optimism it is thought that the idea of a new link road, which could run from the A65 to the airport site, is several years away.

It would most likely be funded as part of a £1.4billion transport improvement programme agreed by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority at the end of last year.

However at around the same time a Department for Transport study was published which warned that there is “concern locally over the potential environmental and quality of life impacts the link road could have, which will need to be mitigated against during the design and consultation process”.

Private equity group Bridgepoint bought Leeds Bradford Airport in 2007 from Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale councils.

Leeds raked in nearly £60m from the £145m deal, thanks to its 40 per cent share.