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Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport

Analysis of the economic case for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport

NEF Consulting was commissioned by the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) to conduct a review and supplementary analysis of the economic and monetised environmental impacts of the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA).

The proposed Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could cost the Leeds City Region £3.1bn in lost economic activity by 2050.

NEF Consulting found that the expansion plans do not include the cost to Leeds of lost money caused by tourists flying out of the region. The report argues that, at a time when the leisure and hospitality industry is in deep recession, the proposed expansion is not economically wise.

NEF Consulting also found that the expansion plans:

  • Overestimated the amount of new jobs the scheme would create by 33%.
  • Do not address the airport’s ambitions to automate more of its jobs, and the general movement towards less jobs in the aviation sector.
  • Understated the potential carbon emissions, poor air quality, and impact on the climate crisis.

The Airport’s approach to the economic case for expansion is “selective and logically inconsistent”, particularly evident when estimating how much of each cost and benefit will be newly created against how much will be relocated from one place to another. The Airport claims that the scheme’s biggest benefits would be newly created but its most significant cost, the outflow of international tourism, is not modelled.

The expansion application also claimed that it would create new business productivity, despite the Covid-19 crisis leading to a trend away from flying for business. If approved, the expansion is likely to be the largest single driver of growth in carbon emissions in the Leeds City Region. Leeds City Council has declared a climate change emergency.


  • The applicant has understated the global warming potential of the scheme and, through inconsistent and incomplete data analysis, has made public scrutiny and appraisal of its net costs and benefits more difficult.
  • The proposed development is of regional and national significance and should be assessed in the wider context of UK transport and carbon emissions planning.
  • The Leeds City Region boundary, used by the applicant as their maximum modelling extent, is inadequate for the proposed scheme as it obscures its net impact.
  • The applicant has applied a selective and logically inconsistent approach to estimating how much of each cost and benefit will be newly created versus how much will simply be relocated from one place to another (ie displacement).
  • While the applicant has claimed most of the benefits of the scheme will be newly created, the most significant cost, the increased outflow of international tourism, has not been modelled. NEF modelling suggests this impact could cost the Leeds City Region up to £3.1 billion over the 2024–2050 assessment period.
  • The applicant has over-estimated the job creation potential of the scheme, ignoring recent trends in the aviation industry and their own stated ambitions to automate processes at their airport. NEF modelling suggests the likely job creation potential is at least 33% lower than the applicant’s forecast.
  • The new business productivity projected by the applicant is unlikely to materialise as the impact of the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated a trend away from business air travel use.
  • NEF conducted additional modelling to allow significant scheme costs which were not monetised by the applicant (carbon and air quality) to be included in two forms of net impact account.
  • NEF modelling suggests the net GDP/GVA impact of the scheme is likely strongly negative at the Leeds City Region (-£239 million) and UK (-£1.1 billion) levels.
  • The social welfare impact of the scheme is likely to be strongly negative (-£883 million), even if the very significant social costs of carbon emissions are excluded (-£18 million).
  • NEF Consulting’s monetised impact estimates should be treated with caution and revised should the applicant submit realistic and logically consistent projections of displacement.

For details and recommendations for policy makers, download the full report here.

For commentary see our news section here.

New Economics Foundation

NEF aims to create a new economy that works for people and within environmental limits. We are guided by three missions:

A new social settlement
To ensure people are paid well, have more time off to spend with their families, and have access to the things we all need for a decent life.

A Green New Deal
A plan for government-led investment to reduce the carbon we emit and boost nature, while creating a new generation of jobs.

The democratic economy
To devolve state power and transform ownership of the economy to give everyone an equal stake in the places where we live and work.

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