Groups question public money committed to Leeds Bradford airport expansion

  • Clarification sought on extent of public money proposed to be spent on new surface access schemes required by Leeds Bradford Airport expansion.
  • Concern that West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) financial support is being given to a project that undermines WYCA’s own Climate Emergency response.

A coalition of climate and social justice campaigners from across West Yorkshire is calling on West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) [1] to clarify exactly how much public money it is proposing to commit towards the new transport infrastructure required as a result of the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA). This would result in a growth in passengers from 4m to 7m per annum by 2030, and carbon emissions from the airport and flights increasing by 51% [2], which the campaigners highlight would threaten West Yorkshire’s own Climate Emergency reduction targets.

The coalition is asking WYCA, and the leaders of each of the 5 West Yorkshire councils, to outline how much they will be contributing towards the £42 million cost of a proposed LBA Parkway rail station and the new link road connecting it to the airport. To date, WYCA has suggested that the airport’s current offer to pay just 3.6% of the cost of the schemes is inadequate, but that 25% might be appropriate.[3] However national Government policy requires [4] that the airport’s private operator should have to pay the majority of the scheme’s costs itself since it is responsible for the proposed expansion. The campaigners are asking whether WYCA intends to apply the requirements of this government policy to the funding of LBA infrastructure.

The coalition is also asking WYCA how this use of public money to support airport expansion is consistent with the Combined Authority’s own newly published Carbon Emissions Reduction Pathways (CERP) study [5] which has identified the huge scale of the carbon reduction required across all of West Yorkshire if it is to achieve its own 2038 Net Zero target. The CERP report has highlighted that, if the region is going to reach that target, LBA passenger numbers cannot increase beyond their existing level. The campaigners are also pointing out that the national Climate Change Committee carbon budget report published in December [6] indicated that no growth in UK airport capacity could be considered until 2035, and that by then aviation emissions must have reduced by around 50% from where there were in 2019.

Simon Bowens from Friends of the Earth said: “We believe that much of WYCA’s proposed transport capital investment programme constitutes a public subsidy by the West Yorkshire authorities to increase climate change. In effect, it is a public subsidy by our local councils to undermine their own Climate Emergency response!”

Anthony Rae from Calderdale Friends of the Earth said: “If, as we fear, WYCA is proposing to pick up the tab for the vast bulk of the LBA infrastructure improvements then its funding would constitute a public subsidy for LBA expansion amounting to tens of millions of pounds, contravening Government policy guidelines that airport operators should bear these costs themselves.”

David Fanaroff of Leeds Friends of the Earth said: “As Leeds City Council is due to make a decision on the LBA planning application’s very soon, it is essential that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority makes its position on funding known immediately to the applicant and Leeds City Council and to the wider public.”

The groups represented within the coalition includes Friends of the Earth groups in Baildon & Shipley, Calderdale, Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield, as well as Fossil Free West Yorkshire, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport and Save the Trees Kirklees. The groups are supporting efforts in the region for a green and just economic recovery after the COVID-19 crisis and a just transition for workers in carbon-intensive industries into jobs in the low carbon economy, such as low energy retrofit, public transport and renewable energy.

[1] The coalition’s letter to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is available on request.
[2] Leeds Bradford Airport planning application, Environmental Statement chapter 7 , figures 7-3
and 7-7. Baseline emissions in 2018: 326,000 tonnes; 2030 With Development emissions: 491,000
tonnes – an increase of 51%.
[3] WYCA letter to Leeds City Council 25th November 2020
[4] Department of Transport 2013 Aviation Policy Framework para.5.12. This states that
‘developers should pay the costs of upgrading or enhancing road, rail or other transport networks
or services where there is a need to cope with additional passengers travelling to and from
expanded or growing airports.’

[6] CCC Aviation Sector Summary report P8.1 and 8.2

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