New roads for Leeds Bradford Airport ‘only benefit privileged few’ say campaigners

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Campaigners claim revised plans for new road and rail infrastructure around Leeds Bradford Airport are ‘incompatible’ with climate change targets.

The comments follow an announcement last month that a planned link road to be built near Leeds Bradford Airport was to be scrapped, and that Leeds City Council would instead press ahead with plans for a smaller ‘spur’ road and a parkway rail station more than a mile from the site.

However, environmental campaigners believe the new plans would help the airport increase its number of passengers, and that the extra flights would damage the environment.

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At a meeting of the authority’s climate emergency advisory committee, environmental campaigner Nick Hodgkinson said he believed the council would be ignoring the recommendations from the recent Leeds climate jury report if it were to go ahead with the plans.

Protesters outside Civic Hall before tuesday's meeting.Protesters outside Civic Hall before tuesday's meeting.
Protesters outside Civic Hall before tuesday's meeting.

As Mr Hodgkinson cannot speak due to Motor Neurone Disease, a statement he had written was read out to the committee on his behalf by fellow campaigner Dru Long.

She said: “I’m not suggesting the airport should be closed down tomorrow. The issue is whether Leeds City Council supports the doubling of airport passenger numbers, causing a major increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Leeds Citizens jury recommended that the expansion be stopped. They specifically recommended that the council should not approve building new roads supporting airport expansion, yet the council proposes to do exactly that.”

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The latest plans from Leeds City Council include a ‘parkway’ rail station just over a mile away from the airport, as well as park-and-ride facilities and a bus terminal.

The authority also wants to build a connecting road from the A658 to access a new employment hub next to the airport, and confirmed it had scrapped three potential link road options due to a lack of public support.

While no concrete plans have yet been submitted, council officers claimed they had a rough target of ‘2023 or 2024′ for work to be completed.

The Leeds Climate Change Jury was set up following Leeds City Council’s climate emergency declaration last year, and saw 25 members of the public meet to discuss what Leeds needed to do to help tackle climate change, while listening to academic experts in the field.

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In recommendations sent to the council’s climate emergency advisory committee, the group claimed that the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport would not be compatible with the council’s targets to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Mr Hodgkinson added: “That spur road will provide practical support for the airport to expand, because it will make it easier for extra passengers to use the airport. Has the council told the citizens’ jury that it plans to ignore their recommendation?

“The council accepts that expanding aviation is fundamentally incompatible with achieving zero carbon targets until new technologies can make flying carbon neutral – but those technologies will not be commercially available for many years.

“The council could simply choose not to build that road until flying becomes carbon neutral.

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“The overwhelming majority of people in Leeds don’t fly or can only afford to fly infrequently. How can you justify spending public money on a link road which would benefit a privileged minority?

“We are in an emergency. We don’t have time to wait for the government to change its aviation policy. We have to act now.”