Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has been accused of trying to effectively ditch the night-time flights cap it was found to have broken last summer.
The Yeadon-based airport has applied to Leeds City Council for permission to run an unlimited number of supposedly quieter planes to take off and land between 11pm and 7am.
Conditions imposed on LBA in 2007 restrict the number of flights between these hours to limit the noise impact on residential neighbours. Earlier this year, that cap was found to have been breached by nearly 750 flights during the summer season of 2022.
The airport said the applications had been put forward to try to “clarify” these rules.
But the move has sparked a furious response from The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) and Yeadon’s three local Liberal Democrat councillors, one of whom claimed most modern planes would be exempt from the cap if a change is approved.
There is particular anger that LBA has requested the permission by way of a series of certificates of lawful development, which cannot be opposed by members of the public in the way planning applications or changes to planning applications can.
A spokesperson for GALBA, which brought the airport’s flights breach to public attention last year, said the move was “profoundly anti-democratic”.
They said: “GALBA is angry to learn that LBA’s bosses want to change the rules on night-time flying simply because they can’t stick to the current rules.
“Their changes would mean many, many more planes flying at night, damaging peoples’ health and damaging our climate. We’re shocked to hear that the public is excluded from objecting or making any comments on LBA’s proposals.
“We are seeking legal advice and will not let this go unchallenged.”
Those comments were echoed by Otley and Yeadon councillor Colin Campbell, who said approving the request “would allow them to exempt the majority of planes from the quota and in effect have unlimited night-time flying”.
He added: “This process excludes public consultation as the details of the airport’s case are not made public and residents have no ability to comment or question.”
A spokesperson for LBA said: “We’re in ongoing dialogue with Leeds City Council to reach an agreed understanding of the planning conditions governing nighttime movements at LBA.
“The certificate of existing lawful development applications submitted will help both the Council & LBA clarify that understanding.”
Leeds City Council said the deadline for making a decision on the applications was November 1.
A spokesperson for the authority said: “The council can confirm that it has received five Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) applications from Leeds Bradford Airport.
“A CLEUD is a certificate granted by a local planning authority, such as the council, which confirms that a particular use or development is lawful.
“In determining the applications, the council must adhere to regulations laid down by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
“These regulations mean that CLEUD applications are not subject to public advertisement or consultation.
“Local planning authorities have eight weeks to determine CLEUD applications, with decisions being based purely on the balance of probabilities of factual evidence assessed against a legal test.”