A GREEN councillor has joined the calls for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport to be put on hold – questioning if the current pandemic would reduce the need for a bigger facility.

Earlier this week Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, raised concerns about the proposed expansion, claiming the planned increase in flights that would accompany the work would not be viable in a post-Covid-19 economy.

And now Bradford’s Green Party has raised similar concerns, and called for the expansion plans to be scrapped.

The call came after a torrid time for the aviation industry, and the announcement that British Airways would end its route from the airport to Heathrow.

The airport would normally see 10 flights connect Leeds Bradford Airport and London Heathrow each week but this route has now been axed due to a collapse in business due to the pandemic.

A planning application for the £150 million expansion, including a new terminal building, has been submitted to Leeds City Council.

Although the plans have been supported by local businesses and tourism group Welcome To Yorkshire, there has been opposition from nearby residents and environmental groups like Extinction Rebellion.

Councillor Kevin Warnes (Green, Shipley) has said: “It’s becoming clear that the coronavirus crisis is going to change everything in regards to air travel and how people get around.

“Passenger numbers at Leeds Bradford have actually declined in recent years and following the collapse of Flybe and Ryanair’s drastically reduced timetable at Leeds Bradford, this decision by British Airways shows that we just don’t need to increase capacity.

“We need to face up to facts. We are in a climate emergency which means we must stop expanding our airports.

“We know airport expansion doesn’t make climate sense and this has just shows that it doesn’t make business sense either.”

In a video question-and-answer session on his Facebook page at the weekend, Mr Sobel had said: “I have no in-principle objections to the building of a new terminal.

“What I have an objection to is that the underlying business model to pay for the terminal means an increase in flights. In the current context of coronavirus and what that has done to aviation, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. What we will see is a drop in airline numbers and capacity.”

The airport hopes for work to start on construction of the site by the end of this year, and for the new terminal to be up and running by 2023.

The application adds the current terminal is ‘dated’ and ‘inefficient’ and that the airport could lose passengers to nearby Manchester Airport unless the improvements are approved.

In response to Mr Sobel’s criticism a spokesperson said: “We always value feedback from members of the public, interested groups and stakeholders, and we have consulted extensively both with members of the public and environmental experts to ensure that our plans create an efficient replacement terminal for the future.

“Our operational challenges will continue to be an issue regardless of passenger numbers, making it difficult for us to respond to passenger needs in a modern world, including accessibility, reduced queuing and better facilities to create an overall better customer experience.

“These proposals are about the long-term vision for the airport, backed by private funding. We cannot deny that infrastructure is a long term investment that generates long-term prosperity, regional economic growth, essential connectivity for businesses and jobs for the future, and we are confident that air travel will continue to form an essential part of our region’s infrastructure in the future.”