Government under increasing pressure to ‘call in’ airport application

Bary White

The government is under growing pressure to delay the proposed £150m expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, which critics say would wreck efforts to tackle the ecological crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of a key climate conference later this year.

It has been recently reported that the same lawyers who are taking on the government over the Whitehaven coalmine in Cumbria have written to the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Robert Jenrick, on behalf of campaigners asking him to “call in” the decision so that the climate impact of expansion can be assessed in a national context.

“[The] expansion would commit the UK to decades of increased carbon emissions, against the Climate Change Committee’s advice,” said barrister Estelle Dehon, who is acting on behalf of the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (Galba). “As with the proposed Cumbrian coalmine, allowing this in the year we host Cop26 undermines the UK’s ambition to lead on the climate crisis.”

The planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport, from 4 million passengers per year to 7 million, was approved by Leeds City Council despite the council receiving almost 2,000 objections to the proposals. The council has now referred the decision to government to consider the impact on the greenbelt.

Responding a spokesperson for the Department for Local Communities and Government said that because of the scale of the proposed development and its green belt location the application, if given final approval by the council, “will be referred to the secretary of state”.

However the Leeds University and College Union (UCU) branch has written to the secretary of state asking him to call in the planning application and hold a public inquiry. Dr Jennifer Fletcher, a senior research scientist in atmospheric and climate science at the university, who co-chairs the Leeds UCU branch climate and ecological emergency working group, said: “Expanding airports is incompatible with bringing down our soaring carbon emissions. It is vital that Robert Jenrick calls in this airport decision, as he did with the similarly controversial coal mine in Cumbria. As we recover from Covid-19, we need to increase healthy, green, well-protected jobs – not the sort of jobs associated with aviation.”

The action follows an open letter from 246 staff and postgraduate researchers from the University of Leeds sent to Robert Jenrick on 19 March.

However, last month it was reported that supporters of the expansion had written to Secretary of State calling for the plans to be approved. The Leeds Bradford Airport Support Group says that the expansion would see the creation of thousands of jobs and a carbon net zero facility. They have asked the Secretary of State not to call in the plans.

Meanwhile 38 Degrees (with the support of Galba) has launched a petition calling for public inquiry into the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport so that the full impact of expansion can be assessed. You can see it at:







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