How Leeds Bradford Airport can be catalyst for green aviation – Harvey Logan

INTERNATIONAL travel, and by extension flying, is a wonderful thing. Unprecedented levels of modern global connectivity, co-operation, and understanding are enabled by travel and the marvel of flight.

Redevelopment plans for Leeds Bradford Airport continue to divide political and public opinion.
Redevelopment plans for Leeds Bradford Airport continue to divide political and public opinion.

Flying can transport you on well-earned summer holidays, or to visit relatives living abroad. It has made the world better, enabling cultural exchange and learning, and promoting alliances across borders. It should be a point of pride for Yorkshire that we host an international airport in Yeadon.

Yet, the current Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) is hardly something we
can be too proud of. Anyone who has travelled through the 55-year-old terminal will be aware that it is woefully inadequate and does not offer the warm Yorkshire welcome we want tourists to receive.

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Because the current LBA is not fit for purpose, nearly five million Yorkshire residents each year make a trip over 
the Pennines to fly from Manchester instead.

Plans to modernise Leeds Bradford Airport are attracting widespread comment.

Manchester, currently midway through the construction of a £1bn new terminal, offers a far superior customer experience and entices potential passengers away from LBA. This represents a huge missed opportunity for employment and economic development for this area. LBA already has a £475m economic impact, but it could be more.

Attracting consumers back to their local airport should be a priority. Leeds, as the UK’s largest legal and financial centre outside of London, deserves a better airport and LBA’s expansion proposal offers just that. The £150m new terminal would offer a travel experience rivalling the country’s best.

At the same time, it is important to address environmental concerns and opposition to airport expansion on these grounds is well justified. However, critics must not rush to conclude that striking down LBA’s expansion plans, thus condemning Yorkshire to poor quality airport infrastructure, is the only solution.

It is possible to improve the airport while still taking the environment into consideration. For starters, the new terminal would be BREEAM certified, meaning it would achieve the highest level of environmental efficiency as one of the most sustainable airport terminals in the UK.

Extinction Rebellion protesters lobby Leeds City Council.

LBA has committed to net-zero carbon emissions from its operations by 2023, and the new terminal would help to achieve this goal. The redevelopment could also be used as a ‘springboard’ to launch some of aviation’s most cutting-edge sustainability initiatives. Leeds City Council can add requirements for the airport to invest in these as a condition for approving the new terminal.

If LBA added investments in air traffic control reforms, and provision of aviation-grade biofuels, they would be helping to ensure the sustainability of flying. Similarly, requiring domestic flights from LBA to be on electric aircraft by 2030 could co-exist with modernisation proposals. Development of electric airlines, such as the Eviation Alice, is under way, but will need more support to reach commercial viability. LBA is well placed to offer this.

The council could even ban flights to certain domestic destinations, including London. The French government recently barred Air France from operating flights between city pairs where they would be competing with the TGV. With high quality rail links already existing between Leeds and London, the loss of this potential route would be a small price to pay to protect the environment and guarantee the construction of the much-needed new terminal.

Initiatives like these offer wide-ranging environmental benefits which can be scaled up beyond Leeds and contribute to aviation’s long-term sustainability. Surely this is preferable to stopping a new terminal being built at an airport which desperately needs it?

If, therefore, you care about both the local economy and the environment, 
then I encourage you to submit a comment to Leeds City Council’s consultation on the airport development (open until July 7).

Declaring your support for the airport expansion plans with added environmental conditions is the best course of action so a successfully redeveloped LBA can become one of the world’s first sustainable airports, while also providing a fantastic passenger experience. Now that’s something Yorkshire could truly be proud of.

Harvey Logan is a geography student at the University of Cambridge. He comes from Skipton.

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