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Climate campaigners call for halt to regional UK airports expansion

The Guardian - Thu Apr 8 08:37

The government must intervene to stop the planned expansion of a number of small airports around the country if it is to meet legally binding environmental targets and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, campaigners have said.

Seven regional hubs have devised plans to expand their operations despite fierce opposition from climate scientists and locals who argue the proposals are incompatible with efforts to address the ecological crisis.

This week, the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport was put on hold after the government paused plans to build a new terminal building on the green belt. Ministers are still deciding whether to “call in” the decision – a process that would allow the national and international climate ramifications of granting permission for the airport to be considered by ministers.

Now campaigners say the government must go further and intervene to halt the other schemes which, taken together, would release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Tim Johnson from the Aviation Environment Federation, said the UK’s airport expansion plans would contravene the most recent recommendations from the Climate Change Committee, the government’s climate advisers.

He said the government must take a strategic overview of the climate impact of the proposals rather than leave it up to individual local authorities. “If you look at the cumulative impact of all these regional airports it is very likely to compromise the government’s ability to reach net zero.”

Johnson said decisions on expansion plans at four airports – Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Stansted and Manston – would be “piling up” on ministers’ desks in the coming months and that other proposals at Southampton, Luton and Gatwick could well end up being decided by the national government.

“The government needs to take control of the situation, look at the cumulative impacts of all these airports and the compatibility of that with our net zero commitments.”

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, issued a direction to Leeds city council this week preventing councillors from granting planning permission without special authorisation. This gives him more time to decide whether to “call in” in the planning application.

Jenrick recently used the same powers to intervene in plans to build a new coalmine in Cumbria amid international condemnation of the proposals and there is growing scrutiny of other high carbon projects in the UK prior to a key global climate summit being held in Glasgow in November.A spokesperson for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Planning decisions should be made at a local level wherever possible. The power to call-in is used very selectively and when requests to call in an application are made ministers will consider the case individually, in line with our published policy.”