COUNCILLORS are being advised to hold off making a decision on Leeds Bradford Airport's replacement terminal plan.

Natural England says more evidence is needed before it can 'rule out the likelihood of significant (environmental) effects' arising from the £150 million development.

The organisation, in its contribution to a consultation which closes on Friday, July 10, is requesting more information on a number of issues including the impact of aircraft noise on protected sites like Nidderdale AONB and in relation to bird strikes and air pollution.

Its report to Leeds City Council says: "Natural England advises that there is currently not enough information to rule out the likelihood of significant effects. Natural England therefore advises that your authority should not grant planning permission at this stage.".

Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) insists this is simply a routine part of the planning process and says it is in the process of providing Natural England with the details it needs.

The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), however, takes a different view. Chair Chris Foren said: "Natural England have basically said that LBA haven’t bothered to assess the damage that their expansion plans would do to wildlife and nature.

"When you read the report, it’s full of polite but firm requests for LBA to go away and re-write their planning application.

"(The airport) wants to extend daytime flying hours and allow more planes to fly at night. The least they could is to properly assess the harm that all those extra flights would cause."

The group has also challenged recent assurances that were given by the airport's CEO, Hywel Rees, about the noise impact of its expansion plans. Mr Foren added: "What Mr Rees does not point out is that LBA are asking for a relaxation of the noise permitted for take-off at night.

"There is only one possible reason for this – to allow noisier planes at night."

Leeds Bradford Airport disputes those claims. A spokesperson said: "We have been very clear about how we will reduce the impact of noise.

"Not only are aircraft already becoming much quieter with technology and new innovations, but we have also performed a detailed and robust assessment on noise, compiled by leading experts, which is publicly available on Leeds City Council’s planning portal and illustrates how the noise impact will be minimal.

"The changes we are recommending to the night time noise quota are the most stringent noise restrictions in the UK and include aircraft that can currently freely operate at night without restrictions. The public is free to review these evidence-based analyses and their sources via the (planning) portal and make a decision on its merits, rather than unsubstantiated hearsay."

Ilkley Green Party campaigner Dr Ros Brown, meanwhile, is asking people to make their views known before the July 10 deadline. She said: "I urge people to take this last chance to object to these plans and stand up for the resilient COVID-19 recovery our area needs."


Hywel Rees, CEO of Leeds Bradford Airport, made the following statement to the Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale Observer this week:

AS many of your readers will be aware, Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has submitted a planning application to Leeds City Council for the replacement of its existing terminal building, which was built way back in 1965, with a modern, £150m state-of the-art terminal.

The replacement terminal building is necessary to bring LBA into the modern era so that the airport can provide the levels of customer service and operating efficiency that modern passengers and airlines demand.

Some residents have raised concerns with the planning application on the grounds of noise and, having reviewed those concerns, there appear to be some misconceptions about the noise effects of the proposals.

The airport’s noise assessment supporting LBA’s application makes it clear that daytime noise will be lower than it is today due to the continued improvement in aircraft types operating at the airport. Modern aircraft are becoming significantly quieter, especially the new generation of A320neo and 737max families, which will increase in number throughout the 2020s.

Although LBA is currently subject to restrictions on night flying, those restrictions do not apply to the most modern aircraft such as the A320neo and 737max families.

This is because, when the restrictions were drafted in the mid-1990s, it was not anticipated that modern aircraft would be as quiet as they have become.

Quieter aircraft are great news for the people who live near the airport but the current restrictions, like the terminal building, need to be modernised. 

As things stand, LBA is able to operate unlimited night flights with the latest aircraft types. That is not what was intended back in the 1990s.

That is why LBA proposes and supports a more modern regime of night time noise restrictions.

LBA’s current night time hours are 11pm until 7am. Most other UK airports’ night time hours are 11.30pm until 6am.

This puts LBA at a serious competitive disadvantage to other UK airports.

Most airlines need to depart between 6am and 7am in order to make the best use of their assets by scheduling at least three return flights per day to ensure the efficiency of their operations.

The planning application proposes to normalise LBA’s night time hours with other airports elsewhere in the UK to enable LBA to offer the people of Yorkshire the connectivity and choice that they are asking me for. 

The people of Yorkshire deserve a modern airport that provides them with the local connectivity they need. 

As we begin to recover from the economic upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, LBA’s proposals offer a shovel-ready opportunity to kick-start the Yorkshire economy and to provide long term, high-value, knowledge-based jobs in the future.

- Hywel Rees, CEO of Leeds Bradford Airport