“The air travel industry is at a crossroads. National and Local Government response to the Climate Change crisis by committing to achieve carbon neutrality in the near future will necessarily affect an industry whose infrastructure relies on carbon based fuels. Our current experience of the extent of travel restrictions necessary to combat a global pandemic, and the flexibility of remote conferencing technology, will also have a huge impact on how we approach leisure and business travel from now on.
Therefore, any public strategy or business model that assumes the inevitable enablement of air travel expansion in the near future is already outdated and in need of review.
The submission of the current planning application by the owners of Leeds Bradford International Airport needs to be viewed in this context. If the new carbon neutral terminal building had been proposed solely as a response to creating a healthier and more sustainable environment for current employees and passengers, there would be minimal objection. However, it’s deliberate association with extended flight times to accommodate increased air traffic not only render it counterproductive to reducing the airport’s carbon footprint, but the city’s as well.
The new Airport Terminal may be progressive in its carbon neutral design, but environmentally could be seen as a Trojan Horse if the physical construction of it actually has a high carbon footprint, it serves a greater number of flights, and it enables a greater quantum of road use to access it by a higher number of passengers. It’s position next to the proposed new station would mitigate this effect only if it could demonstrate the level of scheduled train services to accommodate the higher passenger figures, and it cannot. Furthermore, if through a combination of industry price remodelling, taxation or government imposed rationing, consumer demand dropped, the building might never get built, but the flight hours would remain should permission be granted, and these might be filled with freight traffic.
It is recognised that the airport is a significant employer for the communities of Otley and Yeadon, and that the travel restrictions associated with the Covid 19 lockdown have already affected the viability of certain airlines and the job security of their employees. Further industry restructuring is anticipated to reflect developing regulatory frameworks emerging in response to climate change. Airports will need to respond creatively to deliver truly sustainable air travel, and Council’s to the changing needs of communities that host them. Until that industry realignment has taken place, we should not be taking decisions now on guessing the future infrastructure needs of Leeds Bradford Airport.”
Cllr Stewart Golton is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group of Leeds City Council