University of Leeds academics call on government to intervene on Leeds Bradford Airport decision

Nearly 250 academics from the University of Leeds have called on the Government to intervene after Leeds City Council gave the green light for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA).

The signatories, including 46 professors and associate professors, wrote that expanding LBA’s passenger numbers would make it much more difficult - and more costly - for the UK to achieve its climate targets.

The outcome paves the way for the new terminal, an increase in passengers from four million to seven million a year and the expansion of daylight flying hours from 6am to 11.30pm.

An anti-airport expansion message projected onto Leeds Civic Hall.

The academics want Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick to 'call in' the decision.

Paul Chatterton, professor of urban futures at the University of Leeds, said: “On February 24, Boris Johnson chaired a United Nations Security Council session and rightly told world leaders that climate change is a threat to our security.

"This is the context in which the UK’s Committee on Climate Change recently told the government there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the aviation sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory.

" Aviation very clearly is not ‘on track’ - its trajectory is one of increasing, not decreasing, greenhouse gas emissions.”

Leeds Bradford Airport.

“The following day, in response to pressure to reverse its outline approval, Leeds City Council said ‘Current government policy points to these emissions being something that should be primarily tackled at a national level’ and we agree.

"This is why the Secretary of State simply must call in this decision so the impact on the climate can be properly assessed.”

Professor Julia Steinberger and Professor Andy Challinor, lead authors of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports, are among the letter's signatories.

Chris Foren, chair of the anti-airport expansion Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) said: “It is greatly encouraging to see that so many staff and postgraduate researchers from the University of Leeds have added their voices to request that the airport’s expansion application be called in.

“The Secretary of State has the power to intervene in planning matters that conflict with national policies or that cause substantial controversy. Given the UK’s 2050 net-zero target, and the international embarrassment caused by approving new airports and new coal mines in the year we are hosting COP26, it is critical he should now exercise that power.”

Ahead of the Leeds City Council planning committee on Thursday (March 11), environment charity Friends of the Earth have also written to the authority challenging their decision, saying shortcomings from planning and legal officers amount to legal errors.

Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth Yorkshire and Humber campaigner, said: “We’ve sent a legal letter to Leeds Council as we believe that its officers failed to consider the Committee on Climate Change’s advice, and misdirected the planning committee over the way in which they should regard international aviation emissions.

"We’re asking the committee to fully reconsider their decision in the light of this.

“It’s astonishing that less than two months after the Government’s independent advisers on climate change called for no net expansion of UK airports, the officers’ report to the Leeds planning committee did not even mention this advice, and gave the go-ahead for the airport to grow by 75 per cent over the next decade.

"Expansion of Leeds is part of a dangerous fixation on expanding airports, from the planned third runway at Heathrow to growth plans at Manchester Airport.”