Influential councillors last night voted to allow the airport’s ambitious expansion proposals during an animated late night meeting.
Campaigners voiced their views about environmental and noise concerns, while supporters said the infrastructure would improve the economy and could go on to establish the city as a leading business hotspot.
The expansion plans include a new terminal with three main floors and improved vehicle access, which is to be built closer to a proposed new ‘parkway’ rail station, new car parking areas, as well as a new bus terminal and taxi drop-off facilities to the front of the new passenger terminal.
Planners also want to modify flight time controls, and to extend the daytime flight period available at Leeds Bradford Airport.
Councillors voted by nine votes to five to agree to the plans in principle, in a crunch meeting that came to a close at around 10pm last night after hours of painstaking deliberation, comments and questions.
They asked planning officers to renegotiate conditions on the matters raised by the panel during the meeting.
The updated plans will now return to the council’s plans panel committee at a later date.
Voting for the application, Coun Graham Latty (Con) said: “I do have sympathies with the objectors but without the airport Leeds slips back a division. Leeds is a major city, we want an airport that is compatible and people are happy to come to. We want an airport to be proud of.”
Meanwhile, Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) said: “If we want to be a top European city we need a number of factors.
“The first one is Premier League football team, and thank God we have got that.
“I try to avoid going to LBA.
“The customer experience is so poor.
“If you have any type of disability it is no pleasure. it is not a comfortable experience.
“None of us disagree that we need a terminal building. Leeds needs a better airport.”
Agreeing, Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab): “I don’t think there is a single member of the council not concerned about pollution.
“But we can’t act like King Canute trying to hold back the waves.”
Coun Robert Finnigan (Independent) added: “I am concerned that if we don’t take this economic opportunity someone else will.
“I am worried we will be in the same position in terms of climate change.
“It is with great reluctance that I would support this particular application but only on the proviso that we go back and revisit the conditions.”
Voting against the proposals, Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) said: “The climate emergency represents a civilisation level threat. I wish that was hyperbole but it is not.
“There is about 10 years left to avoid catastrophic climate change. This application will prevent Leeds from becoming climate neutral by 2030.
“I think we have a solemnly duty to think about the people of Leeds and I will be voting no.”
And Coun Al Garthwaite (Lab) added: “I don’t want to be part of making a decision that is going to cause illnesses and death in the next 20 years.
“I think it is too soon to be doing what is suggested”
“The effect on people, biodiversity and all our lives. I don’t think it is right.
“I didn’t become a councillor in order to do harm and my thinking is that agreeing to this at this stage is to do harm.”
Coun Dan Cohen (Con) added: “I am certain that when normality returns that flying too will jet off at a pace.
“Those that believe otherwise are misdirecting themselves fundamentally. They are not taking into account human nature.
“If we fail to approve this today, all that will happen is that people will go to other areas to fly.
“I do not agree with the conditions before us so while I am content to approve, I am not content to approve with the current conditions.”
Coun Asghar Khan (Lab) told the meeting: “If we want to be the best city in Europe, you need a good transport infrastructure. It will create jobs and bring in investment.”
Meanwhile, Gerald Jennings, of the West and Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, told the meeting: “There is untapped potential at Leeds Bradford Airport.
“Yorkshire is the largest economic region outside of London and we need an airport that reflects that. The opportunity is huge and will provide long term good quality jobs in Leeds Bradford Airport and its extensive supply chain.
“If people don’t fly from Leeds Bradford Airport, they will jump in their car and fly from Manchester.
“I honestly don’t believe we are going to stop people flying. The world is bigger than that.People expect Leeds to be a modern city....but to deny developments and the jobs that come with that...it has a knock on effect across the city.
“If we want to be seen as a city that is open to business we need a better airport.
“We are the largest economy outside London but we have a third rate airport.. What message does that send out?
“At the moment we are giving a very poor impression.”
He added: “We have an infrastructure development on the table right now in place right now that will support us as we emerge out of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is more important than ever now. Leeds is well placed to become one of the leading business destinations but we need this type of infrastructure to support that ambition.”
Responding to a question about whether people need to travel for business, Mr Jennings added: “Business is truly done face to face that social interaction done across the table and actually seeing people in the real world acts as the lifeblood of business.
“Life will not be lived entirely digitally. Yes there will be a change but without a doubt we need to be able to meet people and talk to people. It generates new ideas and innovative ways to do things.”
Leeds Bradford Airport chairman, Andy Clarke told the meeting this was an opportunity to “step change Leeds Bradford Airport and the region”.
“We do not want to continue operating an outdated facility that does not deliver what our passengers want in the most sustainable way.
“Our passengers agree this is vital. Our industry agrees this innovation for future sustainability is vital. Our regions businesses agree this investment, in the long term success, is vital. The
benefits are clear to passengers, aviation and Leeds - as a major European city committed to a step change in the way it does business. A modern city with a modern airport.”Meanwhile,
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, pleaded passionately to the panel to approve the plans.
He said: “It is fair to say the aviation sector has its challenges but we have to accept that aviation will still play a role in a net zero economy. This development is in a sense a replacement.
“You are not talking about a new runway or dramatically increasing the number of flights. What you will be doing if you turn this down is keeping an old structure, which itself has a number of issues around its carbon intensity, and refusing a new piece of infrastructure which would serve the city region for many years to come. I do think we cannot cannibalise our economy and destroy jobs...in the name of climate change because it reduces public support for an issue I personally feel passionate about.
“There are no simple or easy decisions and it is absolutely right that any development around an airport comes with critique and scrutiny but this is not an additional runaway.
“It is not Heathrow Runway Three.”