Leeds City Council approved plans for a £150m terminal in February 2021 – despite almost 2,000 objections – but Housing Secretary Michael Gove called in the decision this week.A planning inspector will decide whether the development at the airport, which is in Mr Sobel's constiuency, should be allowed to go ahead during an inquiry and determine whether the plans are consistent with Government policies on climate change.
Mr Sobel, who has been campaigning for an inquiry, said the decision should never have been left to the council because it is “limited in scope” and unable to take into account national policies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Labour MP for Leeds North West, who is also a shadow minister for the environment, said the airport could have avoided an inquiry and a backlash from environmentalists if it had applied to build a new terminal that did not facilitate an increase in passenger numbers to seven million a year.
“The decision to link the replacement of the terminal building with an expansion in flights at Leeds Bradford Airport, was in my view a mistake,” said Mr Sobel.
“If that terminal building was going to be replaced, to facilitate the current number of flights, it would have been very different.”
He added: “I’m opposed to the airport expanding from four million passengers (a year) to seven million. But I’m in favour of the airport having a new terminal building that is net zero and for four million passengers.”
He said that the planning inspector will “without a doubt” look at a recent report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) during the inquiry, which said the Government should ensure the aviation sector reduces emissions to net zero by 2050 “at the latest”.
The CCC, which advises the Government, also said there should be “no net expansion of UK airport capacity” unless the aviation sector is on track to reach that target.
Mr Sobel suspects the Housing Secretary called in this decision because he is looking to “test the water and think about how we view airport expansions”.
The Government has set a legally binding target of ensuring the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to net zero by 2050, and last year announced it will factor in international aviation emissions.
The owners of Leeds Bradford Airport have said that they want to replace the existing terminal with a modern facility that is more energy efficient by 2023.
They have also said it was granted permission to increase passenger numbers to seven million a year when the council approved plans to extend the existing airport terminal in January 2019.