Leeds Bradford Airport expansion: What's the latest? What happens next?

Leeds Bradford Airport recently pulled out of its £150m rebuild plans, following the announcement that the Government was planning to hold an inquiry into the plans.

By Richard Beecham
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 4:45 am

But you may have been slightly confused to learn that the airport, in fact, already has permission to expand. Well here is our guide on what on earth has happened, and what could be winging its way towards LBA in the future.

What's the story so far?

We have to go back five years to get the full picture.

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What could be happening next to LBA?

In 2017, LBA released its masterplan, dubbed "Route to 2030". This, said airport chiefs, would allow the facility to increase its number of annual passengers from four million to seven million by 2030. It was claimed this would help meet extra demand for air travel, while improving transport links and increasing local job opportunities.

The following year LBA submitted plans to Leeds City Council to spend around £25m increasing the size of its terminal, allowing it to take on an extra million passengers a year. These blueprints were approved by council planning chiefs in 2019.

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This plan was met with dismay by campaigners, local residents and politicians, worried about its effects on the environment and noise levels. However, the plans ultimately took form and were controversially approved by Leeds City Council's city plans panel in February 2021.

It wasn't over there, however, as then-communities secretary Robert Jenrick paused the application to decide whether or not the government should hold an inquiry into the decision. This decision - on whether or not to even hold an inquiry - took almost a year, and it wasn't until Jenrick had been replaced by Michael Gove that the government ultimately chose to look further into the plans.

Following this announcement, the airport announced it was pulling its rebuild plans, and instead focussing on the earlier extension proposals.

So what does the airport actually have permission to do?

According to a report into the plans from late 2018, the airport terminal extension would see a part-three storey extension to the east of the building. The extension would cover an area of around 4,500 square metres - just over one acre - to the east of the site.

The design of the building would be flat roofed and rectangular, featuring a "variety of materials", including composite cladding and glazing panels.

The new building would form the new arrivals hall for the airport, while the existing terminal building would instead focus on departure facilities. The ground floor, it said, would contain three new baggage reclaim carousels, while the first floor would see extra seating and retail units.

Plans also include an extra three security lanes, five additional departure gates, an increase in the size of the immigration area. It is expected to cost between £20m-£25m.

Will there be extra flights at night?

This will come as a relief to those worrying about noise. The original approval does not include any extension to flying times. Currently the airport only has permission to hold five flights between 6pm and 7am - this is despite the now-scrapped 2020 rebuild plans asking for permission for 17 nighttime flights.

Why did the airport change its mind?

A statement from the airport earlier this month cited the amount of money already invested into the facility, and that bosses were "not prepared to commit a further uncapped sum over an indefinite timeframe into a public inquiry process when their focus needs to be on modernising the airport for the future".

Speaking at the time, Leeds Bradford Airport CEO Vincent Hodder said: “It is with regret that we have made the decision to withdraw LBA’s application for the development of a new replacement terminal.

“As the travel and aviation industry continues to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, LBA needs to be able to respond to rapidly increasing demand within the next few years.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported us in the planning process, from the general public to the business community and councils across Yorkshire. Whilst this is a setback for our airport and region, we remain committed to investing in LBA to be an outstanding, decarbonised, modern airport for the future.”

“My team and I are optimistic about the recovery from the pandemic and about the future of Leeds Bradford Airport.”

When will it happen?

While it is not known when Leeds Bradford Airport is set to start work on its original plans, it is understood the airport is now turning its attention to the original plans, and it is understood a statement could be released in the coming weeks.

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