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Leeds Bradford Airport expansion, UK


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 [8]. 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 [7]. 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 [9].

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 [2]. A large amount of effort was put by GALBA into persuading those councillors not to allow LBA to expand [3]. 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 [9].

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 [1].

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 [5][6]. 

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 [4]. 

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:   

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Leeds Bradford Airport expansion, UK
Country:United Kingdom
State or province:West Yorkshire
Location of conflict:Leeds and West Yorkshire
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

LBA sought permission: to increase its passenger numbers from 4 million to 7 million per year; to build a new passenger terminal at a cost of £150 million; to extend the definition of ‘night’ by 1 hour 30 minutes; and to allow more flights at ‘night’

Level of Investment for the conflictive project178,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:20,000 - 50,000
Start of the conflict:01/11/2019
Company names or state enterprises: AMP Capital from Austria
Relevant government actors:Local government, Leeds City Council; national government, Secretary of State for Leveling Up
International and Finance InstitutionsAMP Capital
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:GALBA - Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport
Friends of the Earth UK:
Stay Grounded UK:
Green Sky Thinking:
Aviation Environment Federation:
Extinction Rebellion Leeds:
Greenhouse ThinkTank:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Land dispossession, Displacement, Loss of livelihood


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) responded to the news that LBA had withdrawn its controversial expansion plans [1].
Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “This is a victory for our climate and our communities - we are delighted that LBA has acknowledged defeat. It means that LBA cannot extend daytime flying hours nor remove nighttime flying controls. As they said in their own planning application, this means they don't have the capacity to increase passenger numbers above 5 million a year.” “We will keep a close eye on what the airport’s Australian owners do next. We will act again if they try to break any rules. We remain ready to continue the fight to protect our climate and communities. But for today, we’re celebrating success!”

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[4] GALBA report: A Green New Deal for Leeds City Region

Professor Julia K. Steinberger 1,2 , Professor Paul Chatterton 3 , Dr Declan Finney 2, Jefim Vogel 2, MSc. Objection to LBA planning application, ref: 20-02559-FU with particular reference to ES Volume 1 chapter 7: Climate Change

[1] Campaigners Against Airport Expansion Celebrate Success as LBA Withdraws its Planning Application

[2] 19/01/2022 Public inquiry to decide the future of Leeds Bradford Airport

[3] GALBA Condemns Leeds City Council Decision to Back LBA at Public Inquiry

[5] Press Release: YouGov Poll Shows UK Business Air Travel Will Not Recover to Pre-Covid Levels

[6] YouGov research: an online survey of business travellers and their experience of the changes in business travel.

[7] Government under pressure to stop Leeds Bradford airport expansion. The Guardian

[8] Plans for expansion of Leeds Bradford airport put on hold. The Guardian

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[9] GALBA website

Fantastic animation provided by Christopher Harry. Leeds City Council's Carbon Reduction Money Would be Wasted by LBA Expansion

Press Release: Campaigners from Across UK Join GALBA to Call on Gov to Stop Airport Expansion Plans

Press Release:Climate & Aviation Campaigners Protest as Gov Launches Controversial Jet Zero Strategy

GALBA Calls on LBA Owners to Invest £125m in West Yorkshire to Create Jobs that Cut Fuel Bills

Meta information

Contributor:Nick Hodgkinson, Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA): [email protected]
Last update20/09/2022
Conflict ID:5838



The photo is owned by GALBA. Photographer: Neil Terry.

Projection onto Leeds Civic Hall of the words ‘Stop Leeds Bradford Airport expansion’ is attached.

Source: GALBA website


GALBA website

Members of GALBA have come together to share a simple message - #stopairportexpansion!

Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA (The Guardian)

Extinction Rebellion protesters in Leeds city centre protest against the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport in August 2020.