Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) is a relatively small regional airport in northern England. In early 2020, LBA asked for permission from the local government (Leeds City Council) to expand from 4 million to 7 million passengers per year . This involved building a new passenger terminal, extending the definition of ‘night’ by 1 hour 30 minutes and increasing the number of flights allowed to take off and land during the night.
Local people formed a campaign group to oppose the expansion. The reasons for opposition were mainly the additional emissions, air pollution and noise that would be caused by expansion . The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) was formed as a coalition of climate campaigners, members of political parties and communities living near to LBA. Later GALBA became a constituted organisation with members, an elected committee and a bank account. GALBA has grown to have nearly 400 members in 2022 and has successfully raised funds for legal and other expert advice to support the campaign .
The key decision making process was a planning application by LBA to Leeds City Council (LCC) which would be decided by a Planning committee made up of 13 local elected politicians, based on advice from paid staff working for LCC . A large amount of effort was put by GALBA into persuading those councillors not to allow LBA to expand . This involved direct lobbying of local councillors and national MPs by email (most of the campaign was during Covid lockdown); some street demonstrations and events; press and social media work; fundraising; linking with similar campaigns across the UK to learn and share skills .
The vote at LCC’s Planning committee meeting in early 2021 was split but LBA’s application was approved. GALBA immediately wrote to the relevant national government minister, asking him to use his legal power to override LCC’s decision and hold a Public Inquiry. A Public Inquiry would allow all of the issues to be reconsidered by independent planning experts, employed by national government. The national government minister (after a long time) eventually decided in early 2022 to agree to GALBA’s request and hold a Public Inquiry. However, before the Inquiry began, LBA withdrew their planning application, saying that it would be too slow and too expensive. In effect, LBA gave up! GALBA had prevented the airport’s expansion plan .
LBA’s CEO has since claimed that the airport can still expand to 7 million passengers per year, even without getting new permission from LCC. GALBA strongly disputes this and continues to monitor LBA’s activities and work with its lawyers to be ready to make a legal challenge if necessary. This is unlikely to happen soon because passenger numbers are still relatively low following the Covid pandemic .
GALBA has attempted to build links with Trade Unions representing workers at LBA. GALBA produced a report, jointly with Leeds Trades Union Council and Greenhouse ThinkTank outlining the potential for job creation in the transition to a low / zero carbon economy .
GALBA has also become involved in national campaigning work, in particular mobilising opposition to the UK government’s strategy for decarbonising aviation, called Jet Zero. The strategy is appalling, relying on unproven techno-fixes and ignoring clear advice from its climate advisers about the need to limit demand for flying by, for example, preventing any expansion of UK airports.
For more information, go to: www.galba.uk