THE boss of Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has hit back at critics in an escalating row over night flights - as it has been confirmed that the public can have their say in the issue.

Vincent Hodder repeated strong denials that the airport wants to run unlimited night-time flights, as claimed by campaigners and local councillors. At the same time, Leeds Council has said that it will take evidence from the public while considering a series of applications submitted to them from the airport.

LBA applied to Leeds City Council for a series of certificates of lawful development (CLEUD) earlier this month, which it says is an effort to “clarify” the rules around whether or not supposedly quieter aircraft can fly to and from the site at night.

Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), which reported the site for breaching its night flight quota last summer, maintains there would potentially be “unlimited” activity at the site at night if the certificates are granted.

But in an open letter Mr Hodder described such suggestions as “misleading”.

However, he admitted that certain types of aircraft would not count towards the quota if the airport’s “interpretation” of planning rules is correct and the certificates are granted.

In his letter, he said: “Some of the statements we have seen suggest that the granting of these CLEUD applications would lead to a huge increase in the number of night flights. This is absolutely not the case.

“Contrary to speculation, LBA is not seeking to change the planning conditions that apply to the airport.

“The CLEUD applications will provide a determination and clarify how the existing planning permission, written nearly 30 years ago, should operate.

“This will allow LBA to ensure that it remains compliant with the conditions in a complicated and changing landscape.”

Critics have also attacked LBA for applying for the certificates, rather than applying for a change to its planning conditions.

The latter process would allow members of the public to comment and object, but the former does not.

But Mr Hodder said: “LBA has not chosen the CLEUD process in order to avoid public comment via some ‘more democratic’ process.”

Meanwhile, Leeds City Council has confirmed that it will allow the public to have their say.

National guidance gives planning authorities discretion in certain circumstances to seek relevant factual evidence from third parties – including members of the public – when dealing with a CLEUD application.

This means that the council is seeking relevant factual evidence – such as flight data, flight times, flight frequency and size of aircraft – that relates to the specific operations at Leeds Bradford outlined in two of the applications.

Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, said: “The council recognises that planning matters relating to Leeds Bradford Airport are often the subject of much public interest.

“The call for evidence announced today means that third parties, including members of the public, may play a part in providing relevant evidence on these two applications.

“Please note, however, that determination cannot take into account evidence or comments which fall outside the process’s tightly-defined parameters.

“This approach is not a matter of choice for planning authorities, it is one laid down in law.”

Submissions must relate to the period covered by the airport’s evidence, which is August 29, 2007, through to August 28, 2018.

Alex Sobel, Member of Parliament for Leeds North West, has welcomed the move and called on the public to submit evidence.

He said: “I believe that public input is essential in shaping the future of our community, especially in matters concerning the environment and local development.

“‘I am encouraged by the Leeds Council's commitment to transparency and engagement in this process.”

“I welcome this move and urge anyone interested in the future of our community to submit their comments to the Council to ensure their voices are heard.”

Last week Mr Sobel to Vincent Hodder raising concerns about the lack of public involvement.

Local Labour Councillors have also organized a public meeting with the airport on October 5. The event is full but will be live-streamed at at 6.30pm on Thursday 5th October.

People who believe they have relevant factual evidence relating to the two applications are asked to e-mail the information – including any verifying details – to the council at no later than October 18.