THE boss of Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has claimed he’s powerless to stop airlines running flights whenever they want.

Vincent Hodder said he had no “legal authority” to stop any company using the airport to fly at night, at a tense public meeting with local residents on Thursday night.

One local campaigner later suggested the claim was “nonsense”.

The meeting, at Cookridge Methodist Church, was organised amid rising anger in parts of north-west Leeds at LBA’s approach to night-time flying. Dozens of local people attended, while hundreds more watched a live stream of the meeting at home.

Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), a campaign group, has accused the airport of breaching its quota of night-time flights for the second summer running and staged a demonstration outside the church before the meeting. The airport denies the claim, insisting it will be under the limit when British Summertime ends in late October.

Mr Hodder, the airport’s CEO, told residents: “When the airlines apply for landing and take-off slots at the airport, we tell them whether or not we have space at that particular point in time.

“But we don’t have legal authority to tell them not to operate. They can choose to operate even if we tell them they can’t.”

Mr Hodder said the “one caveat” to that process was the “legally enforceable” numerical limit on night flights. But he said LBA had applied to the Department of Transport for an upgrade to the airport’s status, which he said would give it more power to block airlines from running at certain times.

Mr Hodder repeated public denials the airport is seeking to run an unlimited number of flights at night.

LBA has applied to Leeds City Council for a series of certificates of lawful developments (CLEUDs), in an attempt to “clarify” whether or not quieter aircraft can use the site between 11pm and 7am.

But when it was put him that no specified limits would be attached to any of these certificates, if they are granted, Mr Hodder was dismissive.

He said: “That absolutely highlights my key point, which is there are different ways to interpret the conditions (the airport is bound by).

“We’re trying to get to a point where there’s no argument over what the conditions say and what they mean.”

He added: “When you say that there will be a ridiculous number of night-time flights, it’s just not true.

“There are a number of things that limit how many flights we can run, not least of which is the physical capacity of the airport.”

Local residents were unconvinced, however, and Mr Hodder was occasionally heckled. Several stood up to say they have been increasingly kept awake all night by low-flying aircraft since the end of the pandemic.

Leeds City Council has said it legally has to make a decision on whether or not to grant the CLEUDs by November 1.

Separately, it says it will be “monitoring” LBA’s night-time flights until the clocks go back later this month, when British Summertime officially ends.

Speaking after the meeting, senior GALBA member Ian Coatman said: “Mr Hodder spent an hour effectively not answering the basic question, which is if he gets the changes he wants will that result in more night flights?

“The answer of course is ‘yes’, but he seemed incapable of providing that clarity.”

Asked about the claim the airport is powerless to stop airlines flying whenever they want, Mr Coatman described the suggestion as “a technicality”.

“What it means is the actual scheduling of slots the airport has is outsourced to another company,” he said.

“If these changes he wants were made and there were no limits to night flights, what that means is the physical allocation of the slots is not their responsibility.

“It’s avoiding the question essentially and saying ‘it’s not our fault’, which is nonsense.”