COUNCILLORS are being advised to hold off making a decision on Leeds Bradford Airport’s replacement terminal plan.
Natural England says more evidence is needed before it can ‘rule out the likelihood of significant (environmental) effects’ arising from the £150 million development.
The organisation, in its contribution to a consultation which closes on Friday, July 10, is requesting more information on a number of issues including the impact of aircraft noise on protected sites like Nidderdale AONB and in relation to bird strikes and air pollution.
Its report to Leeds City Council says: “Natural England advises that there is currently not enough information to rule out the likelihood of significant effects. Natural England therefore advises that your authority should not grant planning permission at this stage.”
Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) insists this is simply a routine part of the planning process and says it is in the process of providing Natural England with the details it needs.
The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), however, takes a different view.
Chair Chris Foren said: “Natural England have basically said that LBA haven’t bothered to assess the damage that their expansion plans would do to wildlife and nature.
“When you read the report, it’s full of polite but firm requests for LBA to go away and re-write their planning application.
“(The airport) wants to extend daytime flying hours and allow more planes to fly at night.
“The least they could is to properly assess the harm that all those extra flights would cause.”
The group has also challenged recent assurances that were given by the airport’s CEO, Hywel Rees, about the noise impact of its expansion plans.
Mr Foren added: “What Mr Rees does not point out is that LBA are asking for a relaxation of the noise permitted for take-off at night.
“There is only one possible reason for this – to allow noisier planes at night.”
Leeds Bradford Airport disputes those claims.
A spokesperson said: “We have been very clear about how we will reduce the impact of noise.
“Not only are aircraft already becoming much quieter with technology and new innovations, but we have also performed a detailed and robust assessment on noise, compiled by leading experts, which is publicly available on Leeds City Council’s planning portal and illustrates how the noise impact will be minimal.
“The changes we are recommending to the night time noise quota are the most stringent noise restrictions in the UK and include aircraft that can currently freely operate at night without restrictions.
“The public is free to review these evidence-based analyses and their sources via the (planning) portal and make a decision on its merits, rather than unsubstantiated hearsay.”
Ilkley Green Party campaigner Dr Ros Brown, meanwhile, is asking people to make their views known before the July 10 deadline.
She said: “I urge people to take this last chance to object to these plans and stand up for the resilient COVID-19 recovery our area needs.”